The Invisible Giant
Used for millennia as a gateway to self mastery and a tool for self healing, self awareness and self realisation, the breath sits at the center of what determines real and unreal. A conscious, fluid and unseen force that intelligently energizes and animates all of our relative existence; an invisble giant breathing us into life. With it’s potent potential to reshape the mind and body, bend space and time, the breath can also be used to extend our life.
Written by, Emily Rack
In eastern philosophical and esoteric teachings like yoga and tai chi, the breath is referred to as ‘life force’ and is worshipped as the primary vehicle to enlightenment as well as the divine source of conscioussness and energy. To try and understand your life force and possibly even experience it you can practice pranayama. Pranayama translates to PRANA – life force and YAMA – extension, and relates to different types of breathing exercises which are intended to increase your life force. Pranayama is a branch of the yoga tree and is fundamental to experiencing the unification of mind and body. (Which is in fact is what yoga is; the unification of the mind and body using the breath).
In practicing pranayama you learn to extend the length of the breath in a range of different techniques and eventually minimise the amount of breathing you do. The longer and deeper you breathe increases the length and quality of your life.
Pranayama practices have existed for tens of thousands of years and are designed to help you focus the mind long enough to eventually experience altered states of consciousness and deep mediation. It is true that proper breathing will actually help you live longer and feel better but this is just a small part of what really can be achieved with this invisible giant.
Extending the length of the breath has a whole host of physiological and psychological benefits. Proper breathing regulates the body and mind and keeps stress hormones down, improves the quality of your sleep and helps you to heal. Better breathing keeps your body younger and your brain more plastic by encouraging the growth and repair of new cells. Deep breathing excites the PNS ( parasympathetic nervous system ) to realise feel good chemicals that reduce inflammation, boost the metabolism and grow the size of your brain.
Extend Your Breath and Your Life
The process of extending the breath is a great way of establishing your meditation practice. Watching the breath is in fact a meditation in itself and it is a tool in relaxation, focus and self awareness. The best way to extend the breath is to slightly contract the lower abdomen when you exhale, this will create a slight pumping action which is also great in stimulating blood flow. The inhalation will become quicker and deeper as you progress into the 2 to1 ratio.
Once you are breathing at a 2:1 ration stay in the breath for at least 4 minutes, counting the breath as you go. This will keep the mind focused and the body relaxed.
2 :1 Breathing
2:1 Breathing is a pranayama practice that initiates a mediation and is simple to learn. You can develop the skill of 2:1 breathing and use it in all kinds of situations, even whilst you exercise. To do this exercise you should already know how to do nasal breathing. If you are unsure of what that is you can check out how to do it in the previous Blog, ‘Breath Is The Best Medicine’.
Step 1: Become settled with where you are, either sitting or standing and begin nasal breathing.
Step 2: Just as you are begin to pay attention to your breathing, listening to the exhalation and the inhalation without changing it.
Step3: Continue to breathe for at least a minute without changing your normal breath and begin to count how long you inhale and exhale for. After a minute or so begin to equalise your breath so the inhalation and the exhalation are the same in length, e.g If your inhalation is 6 counts then your exhalation should be 6 counts.
Step4: Once you are settled into your breathing and it is relaxed and smooth you can begin to extend the count of the exhalation. e.g If your inhalation is to the count of 6 then try exhaling for 8 or 9 and then once you are comfortable aim for 12 counts on the exhalation.
You can try different patterns with the breath for example you might inhale for 8 and exhale for 8 and then extend the exhalation to 16. Whatever you try make sure the breath is smooth and relaxed and you are not gasping, over breathing or panting as this can lead to hyperventilation.
This article is used as a general guide to better health and wellbeing.
It is not intended to replace medical advice.
If you are suffering from anxiety, depression or poor health we strongly advise you seek medical attention.
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