As I’ve referenced in the past, we have not one, but three bodies: our physical, our mental/emotional (subtle), and our spiritual (karmic/causal) bodies.
The bridge between our karmic and subtle body is the buddhi.
But the bridge between our subtle and physical body is the breath.
The easiest way to understand this is to imagine having a panic attack. How is the breath? Erratic, short, superficial. The body becomes tense, afraid, and the fight/flight/freeze response is in effect. Now imagine the breath when it is slow, steady, full. It is impossible to be panicking and have this sort of breath.
Our breath is the bridge we use, or a tool if you prefer, that we can use to affect both how our body and mind are working! It is an amazing gift. Breath is the only voluntary and involuntary system in the body. We are programmed to breathe. However, we can always overwrite that programming and train the body to breathe however we need it to (much like our habits are formed).
So why even bother with working with breath? Because it can allow us to heal.
We tend to store our emotional trauma in the mind and emotions. Often if we are in situations where we can’t physically express ourselves (abuse for example), we will retreat into the mind because it is the only place we feel safe. We build walls and barriers around these feelings, and then one day events can trigger them to flood out, often in damaging ways.
The breath however allows us to bring these emotions to the surface. While they remain stagnant, slowly poisoning us, our breath can stir things up a little, and allow these emotions to be brought to a place where we can express them. This also allows us to recognize we have trauma, as most of us are so good and building these barriers that we may not even realize we have trauma (I would venture almost all adults have trauma emotionally in some capacity).
When we use breath, we can move it to the surface, then out. Now it can be expressed in many ways: if unconsciously done, it may come out as sorrow, anger…but if consciously done we can transform it into art: writing, music, painting, etc.
So how do we breathe then? Pranayama practices are many. But the simplest things to keep in mind when breathing:
– it can be done at anytime. Even now.
– you are breathing in oxygen and prana. Breathe in to a count of 4 and imagine these entering your body, providing life.
– when you breathe in, pause and hold before exhaling, anywhere from 7-16 seconds max. Here is where absorption happens. Imagine individual molecules of oxygen and prana going to specific areas of the body and feel rejuvenated.
– Release the breath for 8 seconds. Imagine the bellybutton moving towards the spine. As you release, release CO2 into the world for the plants in nature to live off. Appreciate the cycle of how what your body doesn’t need the earth can use and vice versa.
– Breathe through your nose only. Breathing through the nose tells your mind everything is okay. Breathing through the mouth is what we do during fight/flight response.
Ideally you should:
inhale for 4 count
hold for 16 count
exhale for 8 count
5-10 minutes is sufficient. Overdoing can be depleting. But even just to consciously breathe brings you into the moment. What is more grounding than appreciating the cycle of breath as it nourishes you? Breath brings you into here and now, in the simplest most beautiful way possible.
So relax. Just breathe. Breath is the bridge.