As you read this next bit take a moment to give your awareness to your breath. Breath has given you the opportunity to be here now. Breath is the gift that is granted us as living spirits. How wonderful is that?
Something so simple as breath is taken for granted until that moment when we experience breath's importance to our life and longevity.
As humans, manifested on earth in the cosmic form of a mammal, our breath connects us to the furthest reaches of the universe and down into the deepest depths of atomic particles.
Being an ever curious and adventurous spirit eager to explore and learn, my body and mind have traveled the path of an athlete, both recreational and competitive, a musician of wind and drum instruments, a facilitator of clients in personal training-massage-meditation-hypnotherapy-sound healing, and journeyed through Western medicine and Eastern esoteric philosophies. What will be brought to you in the words that follow is my small strand of experiences and knowledge gathered from my journeys that threads through the tapestry of this wonderful woven globe that we live in.
Shall we begin the journey together?
“Breath springs from self” – Chandogya Upanishad 7.26.1
Our body is the magical universal instrument and we enjoy that beauty in voice, instrument, and movement. Let us look at five basic benefits of breath.
“When movement of Breath is internal, one will see the world in themself” – unknown Vedic
Each time we inhale with the exchange of exhale, we are rebuilding our nervous system and the entire molecular structure of the body. Your cells are recalibrating as you read this now. So how can you ever be the same person? It is impossible.
The center for breath management expands from the medulla oblongata, a section of the brainstem, and controls the rhythm of our breath. This is done involuntarily. When voluntary rhythmic breath is applied in practice the patterns of the brainstem start to shift and affect the central nervous system, Increasing oxygen and ph in the blood stream.
This exploration of our breath can remove "Dis-Ease" in connective tissues, healing tissue issues in body and brain. (The Mind in a different topic and in not being covered in this article.)
Story time: This young man had traveled to Australia. He was a sickly character, hunched over, pressure in his eyes and incredibly low in vitality. A local of the area introduced this sickly young man to the digeridoo. (Circular Breathing though a termite-carved hollow stick). After a few months of practicing the digeridoo, the young man had changed from a sickly young man to a healthy young man and over the few years he was unrecognizable to his past community. Confidence, health, and clarity now radiated from the young man. The Sick man had transformed into a man of Vitality. - Seattle resident
“Breathe easy; have trust and be free form fear.” – Unknown Vedic Sage
Tension derives from the pressure of thought affecting our nervous system and is created in us when we respond to fear and react with a fight or flight response from our reptilian brain stem.
With redirecting the focus to the breath, one can move from the experience of fear in the body into a place of peace, decreasing pain and suffering and increasing clarity of choice for action or stillness.
Story time: "I was so afraid to leave my house to even go get the mail. I heard that rebirthing breath work could fix that. After the first session I was able to open the door to my home and not feel fear streaming in my head. After the 10th session I was getting the mail with just a distant whisper of fear in my head. It took a bit of time, yet now I can barely remember what I was even afraid of. Crazy." – Young Woman testimony
“Breathing is an action of self who is seated in midst of the breath… those who observe the breath movements regain awareness of SELF which they had lost… reviving original consciousness” – Vedic Hindu text
With a steady mind and lowered heart rate we can make decisions with unwavering confidence.
We trust those that are calm and have clear speech. We can develop this through the study of breath, focus, and the movement between actions and stillness.
How does your breath and heart rate change with different interactions of the day, week, month, year?
The practice of breath awareness exposes the conscious self-awareness of WHO AM I? That question is answered with the focused awareness of our flow of breath while engaged with life.
Story time: "Cliff jumping into clear blue water from 30 feet sounds exhilarating. For me it was! How many things could go wrong? Yet the freedom of flight and weightlessness had pulled my curiosity to the platform. After seven minutes of trying to NOT jump, I finally jumped, and it was great. What switched was trusting that I could do it. After 30 years of competitive swimming as a platform diver, it was crazy that I had created fear. Simply crazy! I was so glad that I jumped another 5 times." – 52-year-old woman
“…self-discipline is the ability to guide yourself to do what you want to do whether you feel like it or not…” – Ila Barlean
In a culture of should and should not, our breath can become ridiculously small and stifled. Yet with a small shift of mind and will that breath can expand and deepen, allowing our original self to fulfill those dreams and desires we have been holding back from completing. With a little bit of redirecting of our thoughts, our breath will then soon follow.
One can feel a sense of ‘courage’ sweep over the entire body and a flow and ease with the completion of dreams and desires.... be it this article, be it the cake in the oven, be it traveling around the world.
Story Time: "My child was labeled ADD, Learning Disabled and a disruption to the class. I heard that martial arts might be good for him, so I enrolled my son in our local Kung Fu classes. Within a few weeks my child was able to finish a task that he was given. He stood with more confidence. Still full of all that energy, yet clear in his direction." – Mother with frustrated son
5: The FEEL GOOD RESPONSE
As a facilitator I call this exercise “dumping out the trash”. It’s a different feeling from sex or eating something super delicious.
With each breathing practice style there is this build up towards a place like a crossroad in the nervous system. A point where we get to decide
1- Do I continue?
2- Do I stop here?
Either is fine. Yet in the years of working with clients, athletes, myself, family, and friends, it has been discovered that those that choose to “continue" develop all that has been mentioned in this article. Health improves, confidence excels, the ability to relax becomes natural, and discipline is a no brainer.
When we release tension at a tissue level, a set of endorphins are released, and the brain sets off a ton of ATP that has us feeling great.
“The womb breath” – Taoism Chapter
Belly breathing is the simplest and basic way to remember how our breath was when we were in the womb. Scientists have attached ultra-sound to the belly of a pregnant woman and recorded the rhythm of the breath the baby makes in the womb. It turns out to be remarkably similar to the brain wave rhythm and blood flow through the central nervous system.
When this rhythm is remembered – feeling good is your birthright.
In the second part of this article I will share with you my 7 favorite practices of breath.
Article composed by Ila Barlean (B.S.; LMP; Hp) founder of Tao Energy Movement and We Drum Project. She is a student and facilitator of self-care and healing. From a professional athlete to massage, sound healing, hypnotherapy, meditation, and yoga, Ila’s vast knowledge and experiences spends the global family weaving the threads of tribal to science in our fabric of this short time on planet earth.