We all breathe, but do we experience breathing?
On each breath comes prana, the subtle life force, carried to us by the air. The prana that comes to us when we breathe is the same energy that animates all physical matter. By making the breath slow, deep, and conscious, we make the most use of the pranic energy. The result is that tension is released, calmness returns to the mind, and new awareness and insights are revealed which, in turn, uplift the consciousness. In Yoga, the name for breath meditation, or breathing practice is Pranayama.
Lie down on your back. Bend the knees and tip the pelvis slightly forward. Press the arch at the small of the back toward the floor. You may like to place a pillow under your knees. Rest the arms down at the sides to begin.
Inhalation: The inhalation will have three parts that flow smoothly one into the other. First the diaphragm will move downward into the abdomen, drawing air into the lowest part of the lungs. Secondly the rib cage expands and air will be pulled into the middle part of the lungs, Lastly the collarbones will lift and air will come into the upper part of the chest. To help bring awareness to this process of deep breathing, use the arms as “monitors” for the inhalation process. As you begin to fill up the lower part of the lungs, the arms raise slowly from your sides. When you reach the mid-lungs, the arms will mirror that position. The arms continue raising, smoothly mirroring the position of the breath in the lungs until the lungs are full and the arms rest fully extended overhead.
Exhalation: The process of exhalation in yogic breathing is the opposite of the inhalation. With arms overhead, begin to slowly exhale from the top part of the lungs first, arms will move with the exhalation. The mid-lungs are emptied next, and the diaphragm moves upward as the last bit of air is emptied from the lungs and the arms come to rest at the sides once more.
Practice several times a day. Mentally think of the prana (life energy, life force) coming into the lungs on the inhale, and the apana (the used up energy, the eliminative force) being released from the lungs on the exhale.
LONG DEEP BREATHING:
Practice the simple yogic breathing sitting with a straight spine on the floor with the legs crossed. Your hands can be in gyan mudra, wisdom pose, with the thumbs and index fingers forming a circle and the rest of the fingers open. Straighten the arms. Relax the shoulders as you breath. Feel the natural flow of the breath.
By taking a deep yogic breath, you can expand the lungs by about eight times. If you establish a habit of breathing deeply and slowly, you will have endurance and patience. If you take the breath down below eight times per minute, the pituitary starts secreting fully (located at the “third eye” or intuitive center). If the breath is less than four times per minute, the pineal gland (at the center of the skull) starts functioning,and deep meditation is automatic.