The Hermetic Traveller

For: Explorers, Adventurers, Navigators


Breath is one of the most powerful approaches to personal power and growth. Like all processes, it can have unexpected results if you stray from the tried techniques.





Breathing, Hyperventilation & Anxiety
Our normal at-rest breathing has now become conditioned by the fast shallow pace of modern life. The "average" rate should be 12-14 times per minute, but our forebears breathed slower than that. We also tend to breathe from the top of our chest, which reduces the amount of oxygen available to our brain and body, and which in turn, often triggers anxiety reflexes, muddles thinking, and stimulates the experience of fear. The antidote, oddly enough, is to learn to breathe deeply into the abdomen.


Diaphragmatic Breathing Can Help Your Heart
Recent research seems to show that there is a relationship between upper chest breathing and heart attacks. According to Donna Farhi in The Breathing Book, patients who had experienced a heart attack were later taught how to integrate diaphragmatic breathing into their daily lives. In doing so, they significantly reduced their chances of having a second heart attack. Another study showed that all 153 patients of a coronary unit breathed predominantly from their chests." By learning deep, diaphragmatic breathing we can help our heart.

Relaxing Your Eyes & Face Muscles for Deeper Breathing and More Energy
Those of us whose work requires extreme visual concentration (and the list is a long one, especially in this age of computer technology) can improve our work and increase our energy by making sure that our face muscles are relaxed and by looking away frequently from the work we are doing. This will help our breathing. When our face muscles become tense and our eyes lock onto anything too long, diaphragmatic movement during breathing decreases. This makes our breathing more shallow and means that we're taking in less oxygen. This shallow breathing also decreases the lymph flow in our body, reducing the efficiency of our immune system. So check your face muscles every 15 minutes or so to see if they're tense and let your eyes move frequently. If for some reason your work does not allow you to look away, then try to use your peripheral vision. This will relax your diaphragm and improve your breathing.

Conscious Breathing For Relaxation & Pain Reduction - Vipassana
Yogis, chi kung practitioners, meditators, and alternative health practitioners have known for a long time that conscious breathing can help reduce stress, increase relaxation, and decrease pain. A famed neuro-scientist, Candace Pert tells us that bringing our attention to our breathing during meditation releases peptide molecules from the hindbrain, regulating breathing. The key here, it seems, is simply to be present to our breathing, using our inner attention to follow our inhalations and exhalations as they take place by themselves. So if you want to increase relaxation and reduce stress and pain, try sitting quietly each day for at least several minutes and simply follow your breathing with your attention.

Digestive Breathing
Digestive breathing is an exercise that can help improve digestion. It is based on using your hands to stimulate energy points related to the spleen and stomach energy meridians (acupuncture points), while breathing deeply into your belly.
Sit on a firm chair with your spine erect, yet relaxed, and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place your hands on your knees with the heel of your hands above your knee caps and your fingers pointed downward. Use your fingers, especially your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger, to find three indentations in your knee where the fingers can comfortably fit. Your middle finger will be over the center of the knee cap. Now simply keep your hands there, using just a slight pressure to stimulate the (acupuncture) meridians running through the knee area. Sense the warmth going into your knees from your hands. As you breathing in, sense that you are breathing energy gently into your expanding belly. As you are breathing out, sense your belly naturally contracting. Do not use force. Work in this way with your breathing for at least five minutes after each meal, or any time you have digestive problems.

Breathing for Relaxation
Some of us try to do deep breathing when we want to relax. Unfortunately, most of us do not really know how to breathe deeply. We do not know how to release the unnecessary tension in our belly, back and ribs. As a result, our efforts to deal with stress through deep breathing often result in shallow, faster breathing which tends to make us more nervous and tense.
There is another, easier approach to using our breath to help us relax. In this approach, you emphasize and lengthen your exhalation. It's what happens naturally when you sigh. The long exhalation helps turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, your "relaxation response." There's nothing to do except to make sure your exhalation is longer than your inhalation. You don't have to count to do this. Just put your awareness on your breathing as you exhale. Sense the air rising upward and going out slowly through your nose. Don't worry about the inhalation; it will take care of itself. This breathing exercise can be undertaken safely whenever you feel stress coming on.

Deep Breathing Can Improve Fitness
In a study published in the May 2, 1998, issue of The Lancet, researchers working with cardiac patients at the University of Pavia, Italy, have established an optimum healthy breath rate of 6 breaths a minute. When you consider that the average resting breath rate is 12-14 times a minute, this represents a substantial reduction in breath rate. Patients who learned to slow down their breathing through special deep-breathing techniques ended up with higher levels of blood oxygen and were able to perform better on exercise tests. According to the report, low blood oxygen, which is common in cardiac patients, "may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance." The authors of the study conclude that their findings support other research "that report beneficial effects of training respiratory muscles and decreasing respiratory work in (cardiac heart failure patients), or physical training in general."


Here are some techniques to practice.



Practice gently, and with a fun attitude.



Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing

How?
This method is simply a deepening of the breath. Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose. Expand your abdomen allowing air to move into the lungs.
Then expand your chest, allowing the lungs to fill completely.

Follow with a slow, even exhalation emptying the lungs completely.
This simple breath practice should done slowly, fully, and in a relaxed manner, while maintaining intention, concentration and relaxation.


Frequency:

Starting: 2 - 3 repeats 1 - 2 times daily.
Maintenance: 6 - 10 repeats, 2 - 3 times daily.
Enhancement: 6 - 10 repeats, 4 - 6 times daily.
Disease control: 15 - 20 repeats, 10 - 15 times daily.



NADI SHUDHI PRANAYAM

Alternate Nostril Breath

How?

Often done in preparation for relaxation or meditation
Hold one nostril closed and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. Then hold the other nostril closed and repeat.
Usually one or other nostril is further open than the other. This is due to the flow of blood shifting back and forth between the nostrils every and a half to two hours. Ancient Yogis were aware that the practice of alternate nostril breathing helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and you can switch hemisphere dominance by blocking the appropriate nostril.

Frequency:

Starting: 10 - 12 repeats, 1 - 2 times daily.
Maintenance: 10 - 12 repeats, 2 - 3 times daily.
Enhancement: 10 - 12 repeats, 4 - 6 times daily.
Disease control: 15 - 20 repeats, 10 - 15 times daily.



You can sometimes cure a headache by blocking the free nostril, and forcing the other brain hemisphere to become dominant.

1. Cleanses and tones up entire nervous system.
2. People suffering from cough and cold benefit greatly.
3. Heart is strengthened.
4. Blocked nostrils are cleared.
5. Removes mental tension and worries.
6. Induces feeling of peace.

7. Yogic history suggests this assists with asthma


KAPALBHATI
cleansing breath
How?

Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Exhale through both nostrils, contracting the middle and lower abdomen portions. Release the contractions quickly and immediately follow with another forceful exhalation . Inhale passively and effortlessly. Gradually increase the frequency to about 100 strokes/minute. After the round take a deep breath and gradually exhale.



What good can this do?
1. Cleans capillaries of the remotest part of the body.
2. Purifies the frontal portion of the brain.
3. Aid in combating asthma, diabetes, and chronic bronchitis besides other nervous disorders.
4. Cleans the nasal passages.

BHASTRIKA
bellows breath

How?
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep the left hand on the left knee in Gyan Mudra . Fold the index and the middle fingers of the right hand to touch the palm. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Exhale through the left nostril and immediately inhale forcefully. Quickly open the right nostril by closing the left nostril and repeat the procedure. Keep repeating this pattern quickly gradually increasing the speed of inhalation and exhalation. Simultaneously contract and expand the abdominal muscles and slowly return to the initial speed .
What good can this do?
1. Very good for the respiratory system including the diaphragm
and the bronchial tubes.
2. Improves function of digestive organs.
3. Helps reducing excess fat in the abdominal region.

SUHKA PRANAYAMA
victorious breath
How?
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep the palms on the knees and observe your natural breathing. Feel the breath flowing and out of the lungs. Let the breathing be natural. Feel the abdominal movement while breathing. While inhaling , let the abdominal wall move out and while exhaling let it move in. Keep your mind clear , only "observing" your breathing. While inhaling , feel the power and energy flow and while exhaling imagine throwing out tension , stress , and disease.
What good can this do?
1. Provides deep relaxation to the body and mind.
2. Strengthens the nervous system and respiratory system.
3. Improves concentration.
4. Relieves stress , depression and hypertension.

SHEETALI
cooling breath
How?
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep both palms on the knees in Gyan Mudra. Draw out the tongue. Roll it up from the sides to form a tube like opening. Slowly suck the air through it and fill the lungs completely. After full inhalation withdraw the tongue and close the mouth. Hold the breath for sometime and then slowly exhale through the nose. Repeat required number of times.
What good can this do?
1. Useful in treating fever.
2. Good for liver , spleen, and is a good blood purifier.
3. Reduces tension and high blood pressure.
4. Calms the nervous system.

BHRAMARI
bee breath
How?
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose. Let the inhalation caress the throat area. Then gently plug the ears with the respective index fingers and closed eyes. Exhale slowly producing a long and continuous humming sound. Enjoy the sound and vibrations produced during these breathing techniques.
What good can this do
1. Promotes a clear voice and is recommended for singers.
2. Beneficial for pregnant women and in labour preparation.
3. Creates feelings of peace and joy.