"Exhilarating, refreshing, and rejuvenating.... 'Breathing Into Life' will liberate you from your old hurts and traumas and release you into the joy of life."
DEEPAK CHOPRA, M.D.
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Breathing Into Life
Recovering Wholeness Through Body, Mind & Breath
By Bija Bennett
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Bija Bennett
All rights reserved.
The breath is remarkable.
You can learn a lot from the breath. It is profoundly wise.
It's true that every emotion, physical condition, resistance, disturbance, or tension you have is connected to your breath.
Do you ever notice that you are holding your breath? Remember what you do when you are afraid, or tense, or worrying about something? Or how your breath is when you are feeling happy? Or sad? Or when you've been sitting at your desk all day?
It's the breath that is carrying the message.
The breath can be your best friend. It can be a tool to balance, release, and free your mind and body. It can bring you strength and courage. It can calm you down or give you energy.
Breathing is an art.
But you don't need to be taught how to breathe.
Breathing needs not to be taught, but liberated.
Gentle, conscious, flowing, moving —
the power of the breath.
LEARN ---- ING ---- TO BREATHE ----
But you already know how to breathe! Breathing is one of those things you don't ever have to think about like hearing or seeing, isn't it? Yes. Absolutely.
You can go through your whole life and never give your breathing another thought. Maybe that's why it hardly ever occurs to you that you are not breathing maximally or getting the most out of your breath.
Attention to your breath can make it possible to access the real potential in almost any area of your life.
Your breath can maximize your energy, strengthen your immunity, increase your circulation, align your posture, promote relaxation, improve your digestion and elimination, reduce pain and fear, help to focus your attention and much, much more.
The best part is, it doesn't cost anything to experience all of this.
Learning to breathe comes naturally by eavesdropping on the moment-to-moment flow of consciousness in your body through the moment-to-moment flow of your breath.
Then you can access the unlimited information, energy, and intelligence within that guides you through the process of your life.
In the ancient yogic texts it is said that breath is the life force. As long as there is breath in the body, there is life. Life is breath and breath is life. They call this life force Prana. Each of your body's functions has its own life-breath, or prana. There is one in the brain, one in the head and chest, one in the throat and lungs, one in the stomach, one in the lower abdomen, and one that circulates throughout the entire body.
This means that everything you do, say, think, or feel is intimately connected to your breath.
Your breath touches everything.
It vibrates in every cell of your body. It enables your mind to think, your eyes to see, your skin to feel, your mouth to speak, your food to be digested, and your body to perform all functions.
Breath is truly the nectar of life.
The scriptures say that contemplation of prana, or breath, bestows longevity and self-knowledge on all those who are devoted to its practice.
They tell us that the impurities of one's heart and mind are destroyed bringing health, happiness, and freedom from disease.
(Not bad for just breathing some air.)
All this really means is that when you let go of your resistances and allow yourself to be open to the rhythms of your breath your whole life changes.
Your system expands, rotates and radiates like a wheel of light. It throws off an entirely new energy. Not one of separate parts but one of wholeness.
Then you start deeply connecting and joyfully relating to all the infinite possibilities along the journey of your life and your breath.
BREATH ---- ING ---- LESSONS ----
Remember this is not a breathing class. This is your breath and this is your life. No one is going to judge you, test you or give you a grade.
So let's get honest about where your breath is right now.
Do you feel yourself straining as you inhale? Notice any resistance. And take your time. Allow your exhale to become a little longer and slower. Don't let the out-breath release too fast. Notice if you collapse your body as you breathe out. Instead, feel a slight contraction of your belly as you exhale slowly.
Let your breathing become smooth and easy. And just keep watching your breath.
You can keep your eyes open and even continue reading as you breathe in and out easily and effortlessly.
Stay with your breath for a moment.
You can even close your eyes and just be with your self and your breath. It's okay to put the book down.
Give your breath some freedom again. Feel what is going on inside you right now. Notice your thoughts. Notice what you are feeling.
Stay with your breath.
And let the flow of your breath lead you to your present state of energy and awareness.
There is nothing you need to do. Just allow your awareness to be with your breath.
And respect yourself.
Then you will see that everything you are looking for
is right there.
CATCH ---- ING ----YOUR BREATH ----
What happens when you are out of breath? You pant gasping for air trying to catch your breath as if it was lost and needed to be found.
Find your breath and use it wisely.
Because once you start paying attention to your feelings once you come to your senses and begin to breathe consciously and presently the energy of life courses through you. This is the gift that life has given you.
You don't have to be confused. You don't have to think about how it could or couldn't be. Just live. Just be. Just breathe.
Catching your breath is what happens when you find yourself. When you discover that you're totally here and alive.
WHISPER ---- ING ---- BREATH ----
When you breathe you can breathe through your nose or your mouth or from the back of your throat.
Try something for a moment.
Whisper the word "ha." And listen to where this breath originates in your throat. Now close your mouth breathe through your nose and create this same soft
whispering sound that comes when you breathe from the back of your throat (without vocalizing). It sounds smooth and light. A rushing sound like the wind through the trees. Both on inhale and exhale
keep this air-sound sounding softly. Slow, deep, and steady inhalations and exhalations.
Listen to the sound of your breath.
Let the air do it for you. And be easy. There is no need to force it in or out. Just keep it smooth. Very smooth.
This sound-like breathing is an ancient technique that helps you to expand, lengthen, and deepen your breath. It's calming. And invigorating.
Allow yourself a few minutes to try it. Close your eyes.
And just breathe. Listen to this smooth, soft, even whispering sound of your breath.
PHRENOS: ---- THE DIA ---- PHRAGM ----
The diaphragm is the central muscle of the human body. The principle muscle of your breath.
In ancient Greece the diaphragm was phrenos — the unity of all possibilities of human expression — the link between body, mind, and breath.
The dome-like diaphragm is so strategically located it is said to be a work of art. Your heart rests over it. Your liver and spleen lie below it. It's attached to your spine. As it moves it encloses and touches all your abdominal organs. The diaphragm interconnects your heart, your abdomen, your lungs, and your spine. And because of these relationships its movement profoundly affects your posture, digestion, elimination, and respiration. This is your diaphragm the mediator of all rhythms biological and emotional.
The rhythmic movement of your diaphragm is changing constantly. Relaxed it is shaped like a dome arching into the cavity of your chest. As you inhale it contracts down, pressing on your organs and opening up your chest. Air rushes in as you breathe. As you exhale your diaphragm relaxes. Rising. Pushing the air up and out.
The diaphragm swings as you breathe. Rising and falling. Relaxing and contracting. The air is drawn into your lungs and expelled. Naturally breathing, pumping, continually massaging your organs, heart, and lungs. Ebbing and ?owing. A never-ending movement. All one movement. United with what you feel with what you say with what you breathe. So free your diaphragm. Let it move. Let it feel. And let it breathe. Phrenos. Unifying all possibilities of body, mind, and breath.
A ---- DAILY ---- BATH ----
Every movement of your spine is connected in some way to your breath. Notice that if you slump even slightly your lung capacity is diminished. But when your spine is long and free you expand the cavity of your chest so that more air can pass in and out. Your posture and breath are intimately linked. They profoundly affect one another.
Through your breath you speak to your spine.
All breathing, all movement, is good for your spine. It brings a flow of nutrients and fluids to your discs. Focus deeply inside for a moment and see that both your inhale and exhale initiate a lively response in your spine. Take a long, slow breath in and notice how your spine lengthens and extends. Your inhale creates a stretching and expanding of your spine. When you exhale notice how your spine rounds at its base. Your exhale creates a bending or flexion in your lower back.
It feels great to give your spine a daily bath while you breathe.
THE ---- WAVE ----
(A Basic Breath for Healing and Awareness)
Practice The Wave one step at a time for several breaths.
Move on to the next step as you feel ready.
Sit quietly for a moment with your eyes closed. Let your back lengthen and widen as you delicately release through the back of your neck.
Fill your body with your awareness.
Begin to deepen your breath. And notice that as you shift your attention to your breath your posture begins to change. Feel the natural relationship between your breath and the movement of your spine.
Continue and observe.
Now notice that as you inhale and fill your upper chest first your spine naturally lengthens and extends. It rises and expands as you breathe in slowly and easily. When you exhale your spine softens moving back into the center of your body as your lower back rounds. While breathing out gradually tighten your belly and move it towards your spine. Keep noticing the wave-like motion of your spine as you continue breathing. Inhaling and exhaling.
Stay with the rhythm of your breath.
When you begin your next inhale notice that your diaphragm moves downwards allowing the air to be drawn in and down.
And when you exhale, notice that your diaphragm moves up pushing the air up and out.
The inhale moves in and down. The exhale moves up and out.
As your diaphragm moves your breath moves. And as your breath moves your spine moves.
Continue and breathe.
Through this smooth, gradual, and even flow of your breath your body is released back into its natural motion.
It's a magnificent motion of your breath.
PAUSE ---- IN ---- TO THE GAP ----
Come back into that deep, smooth whispering sound of your breath. And as you continue breathing notice that there is a pause between each breath. This natural effortless pause is the moment of stillness or gap that comes before the next breath begins. Every breath is born out of this pause between inhale and exhale and between exhale and inhale. It arises, unfolds, and disappears into the gap.
Find this space. Hear the silence. And pause into the gap.
AN ---- INTERES ---- TING CON ---- VERSATION ----
Your breath is a communications center. It helps you to remain awake and aware.
Hello. Are you there?
Smooth, easy inhale. Longer, slower exhale. Whispering so you can hear.
Body, mind, and breath. All lines connect.
Now Listen to the never-ending conversation of your breath.
HAVE ---- YOU ---- HEARD? ----
Have you heard the song and silence of your breath?
There is music inside your body.
Yes, music. Sit down and get ready for a musical performance. (You might read this first and then follow along.)
Shut both eyes carefully with your fingers. Close your mouth and cover your ears with your thumbs. (If you can't see or hear, that's the idea.)
Begin to create some long, slow inhalations and exhalations. And listen to the song of your breath.
Listen for the sounds and the silences. Pay attention to the pauses between each breath.
What do you hear?
Notice the melodies flowing inside your body. Keep breathing. And listening. (Beethoven would have loved this.)
You are the maestro. You are guiding your awareness and your breath.
Have you heard?
New music. New listening. Not an attempt to understand something. Just an attention to the sounds and silences of your breath.
Simply listen to the music inside your body. Because everybody has a song.
A ---- LISTEN ---- ING MIND ----
Paying attention is not a narrowing-down process or a discipline of your mind.
Paying attention is an experience of freedom. It is having a listening mind.
Let yourself become aware of your breath for a moment and notice any feelings of discomfort in your body. And at the same time notice that the sun is shining and the dog is barking and that the people in the next room are talking. Keep breathing
and notice that all of this is happening in a remarkable relationship
between you, your breathing, and all you are observing.
Open your focus of attention and stay with your breath. Listen. And notice that an amazing thing happens.
Your world opens up.
It becomes a world that is not narrow or restricted. But a world that is full of discoveries moment to moment.
Paying attention is what happens when you have a listening mind, when you stay with your breath and observe what is going on inside you and around you. And if you are totally open to this experience then everything becomes extraordinary.
Life becomes interesting and alive.
ABOUT THE ---- SUN ---- AND ---- THE ---- MOON ----
There is a real relationship between your nostrils and your entire physiology. Nasal breathing alters the cortical activity of the brain and corresponds to the dominance of the brain's left or right hemispheres. So breathing through each nostril influences body chemistry in a special way.
The left nostril conducts cooling energy to the body and mind stimulates the right hemisphere and in the ancient scriptures is associated with the moon.
The right nostril conducts heating or warming energy stimulates the left hemisphere and is associated with the sun.
Predominately breathing through one nostril or the other creates a specific effect.
For cooling with the moon:
Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril. Slowly, deeply, and fully. Close your left nostril with the ring and little fingers. Exhale right nostril.
Repeat this for a few moments. Inhale left. Exhale right. Feel the cooling throughout your system. Continue to breathe smoothly and easily.
For warming with the sun: Close your left nostril with the ring and little fingers of your right hand. Inhale through your right nostril. Slowly, deeply, and fully. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale left nostril. Repeat this for a few moments. Inhale right. Exhale left. Feel the warming throughout your system. Continue to breathe smoothly and easily.
Left. Moon. Cooling. Helps to calm the mind. Regulates anger. Eases insomnia. Cools an overheated body. Reduces restlessness and stress.
Right. Sun. Heating. Promotes digestion — good before eating. Increases energy. Enhances mental focus and concentration. Enlivens the body for physical activity.
This is how you can use the rising and the setting of the sun and moon in your own life.
SIP ---- PING ---- BREATH ----
It's cooling this breath. Like sipping lemonade on a hot sunny day.
Pretend you are sipping through a straw as you inhale. Make sure you hear the sound (like a hiss) as you sip. Then close your mouth and exhale using the Whispering Breath from the back of your throat. Repeat this for a few breaths. Sipping on inhale through your mouth. Exhaling from the back of your throat, mouth closed.
Feel the wind and the moisture that is brought into your breath as you inhale.
Close your eyes. And allow your spine and your head to move like a gentle wave. You are circulating wakeful, refreshing energy through your body as you breathe.
A sipping breath.
Cooling and soothing for your body and mind.
HUM ---- MING ---- BIRD ----
Humming birds hum. Notice that when you hum it resonates in your head, chest, and throat. Inhale completely through your nose and as you exhale produce a humming sound. Keep humming (in one tone) until you need to inhale again.
Repeat this for a minute or so. Close your eyes and feel how and where the sound vibrates in your body. Pause after you exhale and notice the silence. Breathing slowly, softly.
Soothing every cell.
Humming birds hum. A calming easing healing sound for your body and mind.
ELEVA ---- TOR ---- MU ---- SIC ----
You know what it's like to go down an elevator and stop at every floor.
There's a breathing practice that uses this same technique. You breathe in stages. In steps.
Like this. Exhale, then pause. Exhale, then pause. All in one out-breath. Then inhale and do it again. Exhale in stages with two pauses in between.
Try it again. Then add a step. Now the elevator stops on three floors before it goes all the way down. Exhale, pause. Exhale, pause. Exhale, pause.
Excerpted from Breathing Into Life by Bija Bennett. Copyright © 2015 Bija Bennett. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Breathing into Life, xv,
PART I. THE POWER OF THE BREATH, 1,
The Power of the Breath, 3,
Learning to Breathe, 4,
Our Life-Breath, 6,
Breathing Lessons, 8,
Catching Your Breath, 10,
Whispering Breath, 12,
Phrenos: The Diaphragm, 14,
A Daily Bath, 16,
The Wave, 17,
Pause into the Gap, 20,
An Interesting Conversation, 21,
Have You Heard?, 22,
A Listening Mind, 24,
About the Sun and the Moon, 26,
Sipping Breath, 28,
Humming Bird, 29,
Elevator Music, 30,
Row Your Boat, 32,
The River Flows, 34,
Your Own Graduate Course, 36,
PART II. RECOVERING WHOLENESS, 39,
Just Breathe, 41,
Profound Attunement, 42,
Being There, 44,
Reach in the Dark, 46,
A Sunrise, 48,
Being Lazy, 50,
Holding On, 52,
In a Cage, 54,
Raw Breath, 55,
On the Edge, 58,
The Lotus and the Mud, 60,
A Wake-Up Call, 61,
Feeling Intelligent, 62,
Absolute Uncertainty, 64,
Wet, Wild, and Windy, 66,
It Takes Heart to Breathe, 68,
Experience the Observer, 69,
Dive Deep, 70,
PART III. CATCHING THE SPIRIT OF BREATH, 73,
Secret Spirit, 75,
Fresh Breezes, 76,
Return to the Well, 77,
A Wavy Sea, 81,
Ride the Waves, 82,
Ode to the Tide, 84,
The Disappearing Act, 85,
A Circle Game, 86,
Opposites Attract, 87,
Best Friends, 88,
A Butterfly's Wings, 89,
Social Dance, 90,
Global Breath, 91,
Stellar Songs, 92,
Who Is It?, 93,
About the Author, 95,