RECOVERING NATURAL BREATHING

Rediscover natural breathingRe-discovering the early experience we had of natural breathing involves a degree of unlearning. Above all however, it involves trust and a willingness to be less controlling - and this applies not just to the physiological breath. It will embrace many of the adult life issues that we have taken on and made part of ourselves as we grew into and through adulthood. Our psychology and our spiritual values will be brought into play. The following pages in this chapter will describe a number of simple exercises which you can do on your own. These will focus on relaxing and becoming aware both of your body and of the breath. You can look on these as basic steps on the way to preparing yourself for more relaxed, natural and deeper breathing.

 

In doing these exercises it is recommended that you wear loose comfortable clothing. Remove your watch, glasses, jewellery and anything else that restricts the breathing or prevents you relaxing. The exercises are best performed lying down on a soft but firm surface. A carpeted floor, with a rug or sleeping bag, would be ideal. If possible try to do without a pillow. However, people with back, neck or knee problems may need one or more pillows or cushions – or may prefer to do the exercises seated. The most important thing is that your position be comfortable.

Exercise 1: ALLOWING THE BREATH

1. Lie flat on the floor, arms by your side and with your feet slightly apart. The mouth should be lightly closed. Relax, close your eyes and become aware of the breathing.

2. Think of the air coming in and going out through your nostrils, but do not try to control it. Surrender to the smooth flow of air. Note the cool sensation in your nostrils as the air goes in; and the warm sensation as it goes out. Observe how the different parts of your body respond to the breath. First, think of your abdomen; next, the rib cage; and finally, the top of your chest. Take note of any movement, any expansion that might be occurring in your stomach, ribs or chest. Do not hold in your stomach or abdomen. Neither should you force them out. This is an occasion for letting go of all muscular control and letting things happen. Remember: you are not so much breathing as being breathed. There should be no effort of any kind.

3. Understand that full breathing is not something that you can earn or take by force. It is given freely to those who can receive it. Just allow the breath to flow freely, rather than try to dominate it. If you can simply relax and let go, you will find that the breathing, left to itself, will gradually slow down, deepen and become calm. With each in-breath God is giving you a priceless gift: life. Do not grab it or hold on to it ‑ just accept it, receive it thankfully, and allow it to be.

4. At some point you may notice that, as the breath flows in, you have come to a “tipping point”. You may be struck by the realization that your body is more full of air than before. This is quite normal. If it seems strange or even frightening at first, that may simply be because of the novelty of the experience. Or you may have been unconsciously grappling with the fact that the breath is moving in a way that no longer conforms to some long-held idea about how you are “supposed to” breathe.

5. Take some time to enjoy your new freedom to be breathed fully, and the sense of peace that comes with it. You may be surprized at how relaxed, light - even weightless - you may feel after ten to fifteen minutes.


It is important that you approach this exercise without any expectations, particularly concerning the “tipping point” described above. Whether you reach it or not is not the important thing. Whatever happens or does not happen as you lie there is absolutely fine. Accepting things in this spirit will in time bring you to a point where you become more sensitive to the movement of the breath into and out of your body. As you learn to relax more and more, natural breathing will begin to develop within you spontaneously. This is the way you were breathed from the day you were born up to the time when dress, behaviour and cultural factors brought forced and unnatural breathing in their wake.