Breath of Life:
Breathing, Relaxation And Stretching For
It’s no secret that one of the keys to longevity is to
keep breathing as long as you can.
Yet, simple breathing – the involuntary act so many of us take for granted – is much
more than the mere physiological act of taking in oxygen.
Ancient practitioners of Chi Kung, Tai Chi and other forms of marital arts have
long known that disciplined intentional breathing affected physical as well as
emotional vitality. Virtually every
major spiritual discipline uses a form of breath awareness as part of its
practice. In most languages, the word
for breath is the same as the word for spirit.
In Japan, the word is ki, in Hindu writings, prana, and in China, Qi or
chi. Breath is the life force and the
significant carrier of energy in the human system. Through mindful breathing techniques, individuals have learned to
control their heartbeats, blood flow, blood pressure, immune system, mental conditions
and even pain. Qi Gong masters direct
the breath to heal specific body tissues and organs.
Carola Speads, a German movement therapist, in her book Breathing: The ABC’s,
says that disciplined breathing, “gives us physiological and psychological
balance and the balance of yin and yang,” a symbolic expression of masculine
and feminine energy.
Recently, there has been an upsurge of interest in the various techniques of
breathing and the many ancient practices that utilize breath to develop the
exploration and empowerment of the inner self.
Breathing from the chest is too shallow and limits the amount of oxygen
that enters the blood stream. Breath
must be drawn in from the belly, expanding the abdomen in smooth and rhythmic
The word relaxation should bring to mind the definitive
work of Herbert Benson, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard
Medical School. In his book, The
Relaxation Response, Benson elaborates on the necessity to learn relaxation
techniques in today’s stress-filled existence.
He outlines a simple meditative technique that can be used alongside of
any other discipline or spiritual practice.
- Find a quiet environment – a place free from
- Create a comfortable position for
- Avoid undue muscle tension. A sitting position works well. You can use a chair that supports the
head if the idea of sit up and relax doesn’t come naturally to you.
- Only a few are comfortable with the lotus
position of the yogis. Do not
attempt to lie down, as you may get drowsy or fall asleep. (Sleep itself isn’t a bad way to relax,
but it’s not a form of active, conscious stress reduction – and
consciously falling asleep doesn’t count!)
- Choose a mental device – a sound,
word or phrase – repeat it silently or aloud. Follow your breathing, become aware of your breath. Relax.
Do this as you fix your gaze at a stationary object – NOT the
Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how you’re performing, what you’re getting
out of the exercise, or what you should be doing instead of the
exercise. This is so important:
let go! Just let it happen. Let
the words sink deep within you. Do
this twice a day for at least fifteen minutes. It has been conclusively proven to help heal the body, and
provides several additional benefits that you begin feeling the first or
second day that you begin this.
ADDITIONAL METHODS AND SHORTCUTS
Invest just seven or eight minutes per day, especially
during normally wasteful minutes – such as when you’re waiting at traffic
lights, riding in a vehicle (where someone else is driving, naturally), close
your eyes and simply visualize yourself in your favorite place on earth, doing
the things you enjoy the most. Allow
yourself to float into that visualization, and you find your energy levels
going up, your reactions more positive and affirming; your ideas more creative, among several other benefits of this.
Infants know how to breathe, because we’re born knowing how:
full, complete respirations, which means letting all the air out of your lungs,
and then replacing it with good, deep, full breaths. By the age of ten or twelve, when we become psycho-socio-sexually
aware of ourselves, we become so concerned with how others view and respond to
us that we literally and most definitively forget how to breathe properly,
drawing shallower breaths than is healthy.
Naturopathic Medicine, Healing Naturally with Dr. David Cohen, PH.D., N.D., M.H., C.N.C.
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Results in every human endeavor are always the bottom line.
Every single interest you have in your past, present, and future has some form
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decisions that are based on understanding
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