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Leaning into the Exhale: How to Use Your Breath to De-Stress

By | Blog

With the hectic holiday season just around the corner and with all the craziness going on in the world, we need a way to stay calm, centered and relaxed. So this month I want to talk about using breathwork for preventing and eliminating stress, work-life balance, and relaxation.

My friend and multiple world record holder Stig Severinsen sums up the anti-stress, anti-anxiety breathing rule of thumb in this way: “relaxation is in the exhalation.” What that means is, if you want to relax, stay calm, or reduce your anxiety, you need to learn how to “lean into the exhale.”

You see, when you inhale, you automatically activate the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system (the fight or flight response); and when you exhale, you naturally activate the parasympathetic branch of your ANS (the rest and recover mode).

In Chapter 2 of my upcoming book, Just Breathe, I talk about the connection between breathing and the nervous system; and in Chapter 3 we go more deeply into it. Here, I’d just like to give you a couple of quick tips on how to use your breath to counter stress, tension, nervousness or anxiety.

Have you noticed that when the pressure is on, the top athletes and artists in the world take a conscious breath? Have you noticed that they breathe just before they shoot, swing, throw, kick, or dive? That’s not a coincidence. High performers and people who work in high stakes or life or death situations use their breath to manage their psychological, emotional, and physiological state. And you can do the same.

When you notice yourself becoming stressed or upset, tense or anxious, do this:

1. stop and focus on your breath for a few moments

2. then give yourself a couple of deliberate sighs of relief

3. loosen your jaw, neck, and shoulders as you exhale

4. use the exhale to drop into a place of stillness and peace within

After a few of these soothing sighs of relief, focus on lengthening the exhale, and relaxing more deeply as you do. Begin to make your exhales at least twice as long as your inhales. Then take the relaxation even further: when the air stops coming out, continue to exhale mentally or energetically. Imagine that you are continuing to exhale.

From the outside, it will seem that you are holding your breath after the exhale, but on the inside, your experience should be that you are continuing to exhale. The idea is to “ride” the exhale down into a place of peace and stillness. Remain soft and loose as you drop deeper into this place of open relaxation.

If you make your inhale fuller or bigger, if you gently give your inhale a little extra stretch or expansion, then you will trigger a more powerful release on the exhale, and you will trigger the relaxation response.

Practice making the exhales longer. Start by inhaling for a count of 2 and exhaling for a count of 4, then continue to mentally exhale or rest in the pause after the exhale for an additional count of 4… Then maybe inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 6, adding an open pause at the end of the exhale for an additional count of 6.

Remember to continue to exhale energetically or imagine exhaling mentally after all the air stops coming out. Remaining relaxed and open, and continuing to lean into the exhale… letting go more deeply…

With practice, you can get free of stress and tension and return to a state of peace and relaxation, of comfort and calmness, with just one or two of these conscious breaths.

Good luck with your practice and many blessings on your path.

Ceremonial Breathing

By | Blog

This month I would like to share with you a unique breathing practice taught by Michael Brian Baker. He is an independent breathworker, and has not trained with any of the well-known Rebirthing or Breathwork schools. I love his approach, and I love him. Michael is very conscious of energy, and he understands how breathing can ignite vital force in the body. He is devoted to guiding as many people as possible toward an experience of this universal life force.

Like many of us, Michael had a spontaneous awakening to the Spirit of Breath. And more than that, he embodies a sacred tradition that began in prehistoric Africa, spread to ancient Egypt, and then inspired the early yogis of India. His teachings bring together the modern consciousness movement and personal growth seminars like EST (the Forum) and Insight, with the Shaktipat experience and South American Medicine Ceremonies. He refers to his work as Ceremonial Breathing, and as a journey of emersion into self-realization.

He is dedicated to guiding people into witnessing their own spiritual awakening. He is also devoted to inspiring and supporting large group initiations. I feel that Michael is responding to the need for genuine rites of passage and the lack of them in the western world. The results of his practice are like ayahuasca or peyote ceremonies, but instead of ingesting substances, he turns people on with the breath.

His approach is based on sacred geometry and numerology, and before his sessions, he does invocations and he asks Spirit for permission and guidance. He is also up to date on the latest research in neuroscience and brain plasticity, and he is passionate about teaching medical students and young doctors about breathwork and other natural healing methods.

Michael is particularly skilled—gifted in fact—at “singing” people through those periods when spiritual evolution and personal transformation cause our egos to go into a panic. And although he talks about alchemy and animal totems, and he makes use of earth, air, water and fire rituals, he does not want to be known as a shaman. In fact, he prefers the term showman. I smiled when he referred to himself “Spirit’s errand boy” or as “Spirit’s bitch!”

Here, I ‘d like to give you a very brief description of his Breathing Initiation. First, understand that the breathing pattern he uses is a two-part breath. The first part of the inhale is in the belly and the second part is in the chest, then simply relax and release the exhale all at once. Breathe this way in a continuous rhythm.

Next, he suggests incorporating the “ocean breath” also known as Ujjayi breathing. By tightening your throat slightly, you create a sort of “Darth Vader” sound. This is an ancient yogic practice with a number of health benefits, not the least of which is that it helps to bring more conscious awareness to your breathing.

  1. While looking at a clock, breathe the two-part breath continuously for 7 minutes.
  2. Then inhale and hold your breath for 1 minute.
  3. Release the breath, rest, relax, and breathe normally for 1 minute.

That completes one round of Michael’s Ceremonial Breathing technique. Do two more rounds like this.

As I said, I am only giving you a small taste of this unique breathwork practice. Still, I know that you will have a valuable experience if you try it. To recieve all the benefits of this beautiful method, I suggest you contact Michael, check his schedule, and plan to attend one of his events. Visit: www.TheBreathCenter.com.

Good luck in your practice and many blessings on your path!

Nasal Inhale Oral Exhale

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Breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth. We have been exploring this breathing pattern at the breathwork seminars and trainings lately. “Breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth.” Simple instructions. Powerful Breathing pattern.

This nasal inhale and oral exhale exercise is used by martial artists and athletes. With practice, you can learn to literally suck pain and fatigue out of your muscles and release it from your body. You can also dramatically increase your focus and concentration, and you can center and relax yourself.

We know that the nose has tiny hairs that filter dust, and it has mucus membranes that trap microscopic particles. It warms or cools the air depending on what is needed. The nose also has structures built into it that actually spiral the air before it flows down into the lungs.

When you breathe in through your nose, imagine that you are enjoying your favorite fragrance. One of my favorites since childhood has been fresh cut grass. Another is lilacs. And another is the smell of bread baking in the oven. What are some of yours?

We have the ability to put ourselves right into an imagined or remembered experience and breathe it in as if we are right there and it is happening right now. This is important because our body-mind system on some level does not know the difference between a real experience and an imagined one.

I love how my friend Stig Severinsen says: “when we breathe in through the nose, we let the brain know that we are breathing.” Breathing through the nose is also a way of focusing our attention. And we can increase our awareness of subtle energies when we breathe in through the nose.

The mouth, on the other hand, is a bigger opening, and so it allows a quicker, fuller, and more total release of the breath. We can also express feelings and emotions when we breathe through our mouth. For example, “aahh” is the sound of letting go. It’s a soothing and relaxing sound. And so by breathing in through the nose and breathing out through the mouth, we can create a wide range of beautiful and powerful experiences.

Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Simple enough, but how exactly do you do that? Do you seal your lips in order to breathe in through your nose? Do you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth to close that passage? Or do you close something in the back in your throat?

If you seal your lips in order to channel the air through your nose on the in-breath, then when you open your mouth to exhale, you will naturally form a “mah” or “pah” sound. Try it now. Close your lips, and breathe in. The air has no choice but to flow in through the nose. When you exhale, allow the breath to push your lips open. Notice the sound it makes.

If you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you will block the passage and the air will naturally flow in through the nose. When you relax and release the tongue to allow the breath to flow out through your mouth, you will naturally produce a “nah” or “tah” or “dah” sound. Try it now.

If you block the passage by blocking your throat with the back of your tongue, when you release and open the passage to exhale through your mouth, you will produce a “gah” or “kah” sound. Play with that right now.

Maah (or “paah”)

Naah (or “taah”)

Kaah (or “gaah”)

If you purse your lips when you exhale through the mouth as if you are saying “ooh,” you will make a “pooh” sound. If you pressed your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you will make a “tooh” sound on the exhale, and if you closed the back of your throat, you will make a “kooh” or “gooh” sound.

“Mooh” (or “pooh”)

“Tooh” (or “dooh”)

“Kooh” (or “gooh”)

Isn’t breathing fun!

When you shape the stream of breath in different ways, you produce different sounds, and you also evoke different feelings. Play with your breath in this way. Play with the nasal inhale and oral exhale pattern. Play with the sounds, and observe the subtle changes in your energy as you do.

Use your imagination and deliberately generate pleasure with each breath. Add visualization, affirmations, or positive intentions to the practice to create a beautiful inner state. Have fun!

Focus on Breathing

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This month I have been focusing on breathing with many experienced breathwork practitioners. This includes a host of professional breathworkers from around the world who gathered for the 23rd Annual Global Inspiration Conference in South Africa; and it includes some of our advanced students in Russia, as well as the many seasoned breathers and members of the practitioner training group in Lithuania. It also includes skype consultations and online meetings with my VIP members.

Here are some of the things that breathworkers and conscious breathers focus on when breathing, and while coaching, facilitating, or supporting others during a breathing session. These are things we observe, explore, and discuss in ourselves and others:

How would you describe or characterize the general breathing pattern? Is the breathing easy? Smooth? Powerful? Subtle? Is there effort involved? Is it natural? Is it forced? Is it active? Lazy?  Are there any specific points that stand out? Any qualities or aspects that are unique or interesting? Can you observe the subtle details? Is the breathing mechanical, or is it alive? Is it conscious?

What can you sense from the breathing? If breathing isthe language of the soul, what does the breathing pattern express or reflect about the breather? What emotions can you sense are being felt just under the surface? What would happen if the breathing were to become more powerful or more subtle, faster, slower, deeper?

Is the breathing full and free? Is it inhibited or restricted? Is the breathing in the chest? The belly? Through the nose? The mouth? Are there breath sounds? Is relaxation present? What muscles are being used? What would happen if you/they relaxed more? What is happening in the jaw? The neck? The throat? The spine? The forehead? The shoulders? The belly? Finger tips? Does the whole body breathe? Does the whole body relax?

Are the inhales longer than the exhales? Are the exhales longer than the inhales? Are there pauses between the breaths? Are the inhales active? Are the exhales active? Is there more effort being applied than required? Is there something missing? Is the breathing fast? Slow? Shallow? Deep? Is it rhythmic, choppy, or chaotic? Is there a sense of over-controlling or holding back? Are you/they breathing energy and not just air?

One of the core techniques that we teach and practice is “connected breathing,” “continuous breathing,” or “circular breathing.” This means that there are no gaps or pauses or breaks between the inhales and exhales, exhales and inhales. It is a core technique used in Breathwork.

This particular breathing exercise activates subtle as well as powerful energies in the body. It brings up all kinds of feelings and sensations, thoughts and emotions, fantasies, memories, and so on; and it magnifies them. It is while doing this practice that we ask these questions, that we observe these things I just listed.

If you have never done a connected breathing session, then you don’t know what you are missing, and you really need to try it! You would do well to explore it, learn it, experiment with it, learn it. Find a good teacher, and master it!

The practice of “Breath Awareness” also called “breath watching,” is a mindfulness practice. It leads to tremendous spiritual awakening, self-knowledge and personal growth, emotional clearing, physical healing, self-mastery, self-realization, and even ultimate liberation!

Do yourself a favor, and start practicing it today. Breathe, and observe how you breathe. Practice the connected breathing rhythm, and use it to improve your health and well-being, as well as success in life, love, business, sports, and beyond!

If you would like some coaching or support, or if you simply want more information about breathwork, visit www.breathmastery.com and download my free book: Shut Up and Breathe! When you do, you will automatically subscribe to my Monthly Newsletter and Breathing Report.

I also suggest that you put your name on the pre-order list of “JUST BREATHE!” This book will be published by Simon & Schuster and will be in bookstores everywhere February 14, 2017!

If you would like to search through a growing collection of books, articles, reports, audio and video recordings, seminar and workshop transcripts, handouts, training materials, webinars, interviews… Information on Breathwork… some of it going back more than 35 years, and even centuries, then you may want to join our Breath Mastery Inner Circle: http://www.breathmastery.com/membership/

You may also want to schedule a Skype Consultation, or attend a live training event somewhere in the world. You may want to come down to Mexico and take part in one of our 21 Day Baja retreats or Breathwork Intensives. Contact: office@breathmastery.com for more information.

Good luck in your practice,
and many blessings on your path!

Dan

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