Breath is a Requisite for Life & Healing
“It’s like breathing,” we say, to illustrate the ease of a particular task or the acquisition of a new skill that isn’t really difficult.
From our initial entry into life, breathing is automatic, something we don’t prepare for or think about until we face a health crisis later in life or develop a respiratory condition that requires monitoring and medicating.
We know that breath is requisite for life, but the benefits of conscious breathing transcend the physical to include multidimensional healing and spiritual awakening.
The Sanskrit word prana encompasses more than just the breath. It is the cosmic life force synonymous with “chi,” the energy that permeates all beings. This force enters the body through the breath and circulates, vivifying every cell.
In guided meditation, we often begin with deep breaths, the intake of prana, holding it and letting it circulate throughout the body; awakening us, before we release old energy slowly.
Various Definitions of Breath Have Similarities
In its definition of prana, The Oxford English Dictionary specifies that it “flows in currents in and around the body.”
Such slow and focused breathing brings us to a new awareness as the breath hits each chakra or energy center. Deep, conscious breathing in this manner raises our vibration, elevating us both physically and spiritually.
This breath helps to eliminate blockages and remove obstacles to healing. The more the breath circulates, the clearer our channels, and the more receptive we become to higher energies. We in essence mimic the ebb and flow of the universe.
Through the breath, we learn to “be” rather than think. Our thoughts become secondary to our partnership with the cosmos when we surrender to the universal breath. Through that surrender, we operate more fully on a soul level.
Breath and Its Spiritual Connections
The clear connection between breath and spirit can be seen in Genesis 2:7, after God creates the physical body of the first man Adam (which in Hebrew means “earth”):
“Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
The word “soul” is used in the Hebrew scriptures and encompasses more than mere “living being” translated in other modern versions, overlooking if not discarding the irrevocable human-divine connection.
It is the breath that began that connection, and the breath that sustains that connection.
Oxygenation: The Science of Breathing
Science recognizes breathing as a curative method for multiple ailments, primarily through the proven technique of Biofeedback, which includes various methods of monitoring and controlling the body’s processes.
Controlling breathing, which calms the body and mind, is used to alleviate the effects of asthma, migraines, anxiety, bowel disorders, high blood pressure, chemotherapy effects, and many more ailments.
The underlying principle of Biofeedback is that we can control our own processes and reduce both pain and the need for medication through natural means.
The process allows us to see the immediate results of our body/mind connection. For example, when we are stressed or fearful, our body temperature drops.
By focusing on slow, deep breathing and nothing else, within a few minutes our body temperature rises, reflecting the change in our psychological or emotional state.
These changes are measured through electronic devices and external thermometers one wears during the process.
The Use of Breath in Biofeedback
Women who give birth through the Lamaze method (a series of breathing patterns developed by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze) know this well.
While nothing can eliminate the pain of childbirth short of an epidural or general anesthesia, the breathing techniques taught by Lamaze educators intend to relax the muscles and ease energy flow to reduce labor pain.
These are the same techniques that we use as preludes to meditation.
Those techniques include square breathing: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, release for four counts.
Sounds often accompany Lamaze breathing, not unlike the sounds one utters during a Kundalini meditation class. The combination of breath and chant transports us from the physical, where we store pain, to the spiritual, where we release it.
A Basic Breathing Meditation for Beginners
Here’s a very basic breathing meditation, perfect for beginners who want to learn to use breath as a vehicle to higher planes or simply to help alleviate physical discomfort:
Take a deep breath through your nose, counting to four. Hold it for four counts. Feel the breath circulate throughout your body. Release slowly through your mouth to the count of eight.
When you inhale, place your hand on your belly as it expands like a balloon. Don’t breathe up into your shoulders, which creates tension.
Inhale for four counts, hold for four, and release for eight. Repeat four or five times, relaxing with each round.
Exercising this way a few times a day will ease you any situations that trigger anxiety and fear.
Moreover, it will also open your intuitive channels, securing your partnership with the cosmos.
By Lisa Shaw / Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation