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Mindfulness

The Power of Conscious Breathing

mar-2011-preview

Incorporating breathing exercises into daily life will improve the body, mind and spirit starting with the first inhale.

By Tammy Mastroberte

The act of breathing is automatic. It’s something we don’t have to think about because the body simply takes care of it for us. But breathing can be a powerful tool when used consciously, helping to energize the body, calm the mind and release toxins. Breathing can—in an instant—take us out of our negative and reactive thought patterns, and help release fear, while grounding us in the present moment.

Our breath is what anchors our spirit in the body and also moves us from the reactive, fear based subconscious mind to a co-creator reality, Shamrock Holtz, a shamanic breath and body worker based in Chicago, tells Elevated Existence.

When we are stressed or trapped in the subconscious mind and replaying thought patterns that create anxiety or unease in the body, a deep and conscious breath can instantly pull us out of that destructive cycle and into the present moment, according to Holtz.

When we are walking in our day-to-day life, we are often in the subconscious or reactive mind state, which reacts three to four times faster than the conscious mind. It is here where thoughts and patterns from the past begin to move us, and we don’t even realize it because it happens so fast, he says. But when we stop and take a moment to breathe into the thoughts, we actually activate our witness to observe the patterns.

When operating from the viewpoint of the witness, we can choose to give attention to the thoughts and patterns from the past or future, or we can stay in the present moment and simply watch the thoughts pass by. Viewing things as a witness also allows us to consciously choose a response rather than immediately react, Holtz explains.

The breath is what installs free will into our experience on Earth, he notes. With breath we get the choice, and if we sit down and practice conscious breathing on a day-to-day basis, when we are in our walk of life, we are more likely to return to that state throughout the day.

When trapped in the subconscious mind, the intellectual side of us often takes over, squeezing out spirit and intuition, which can allow fear to take over. This can cause us to either lose our breath all together or to breathe shallowly and from the chest rather than the diaphragm, which is the primary breathing muscle, according to Holtz.

However, when we take a deep breath, expanding from the diaphragm and abdomen rather than the chest and rib cage, we allow more oxygen into our body, and our lungs can expand fully.

When a thought goes through our minds and we react in fear, we need to pay attention to what is going on in our body, Holtz says. When fear comes in, we often lose our breath all together. Once we give energy to that fear, it blocks our third chakra, which is the diaphragm. But if we start breathing from the diaphragm, we anchor our spirit into our third chakra, our personal place of power, and the fear subsides.

Once we find ourselves fearful, it is valuable to check in with our body to see what state our breathing is in, and then immediately bring it back into the diaphragm, he explains. When we are locked in the third chakra and not breathing, we are in an internal state of war and begin to deplete our energy. If we are low on energy, we often try to steal it from someone else. We need to realize that we just need to return to our Source where there is infinite energy available—it’s just a breath away.

In addition to our own negative thought patterns and the energy they create, we are also susceptible to the thought patterns and energetic vibrations of others. These can build up in our psyche or auric field and affect our nervous system.

Our nervous system reflects how our spirit feels inside our body. If we are cramped down, we have too much in our psyche, including other peoples’ thoughts and sounds, and we need to go back in, flush it out, and bring spirit back into our body, explains Holtz. Then the mind can be clear. When the spirit re-anchors in the body, it may begin to subtly twitch or shake. This is the nervous system releasing excess psychic debris and reconnecting to our authentic self.

BREATHING INTUIT

With one deep breath, we can bring ourselves into the present moment, center our mind and connect with our spirit—and it is here where intuition lies. Whether it’s celebrating a joy, releasing a sorrow or trying to solve a problem, Holtz recommends what he calls breathing intuit.

When we are in a fear state, or stuck in our subconscious mind or intellect, instead of trying to run from it, I say breathe into it or intuit. The breath activates our witness, and we can detach ourselves from the thoughts, Holtz says. Breath into it—even the joys in life—and it will anchor your spirit into the present moment, and you can operate from intuition. It makes us aware of what we are experiencing, and we can consciously choose what we will create next. This practice alone can shift the planet, and can be applied to anything and everything.

THE THREE-PART BREATH

When learning to breathe from the diaphragm, mastering the three-part breath (also known as the Complete Breath or Dirga Pranayama) is key. This breath is often taught as part of any yoga practice, and forms the basis for many other types of breathing techniques.

The three-part breath calms the body and the mind down, says Holtz. It starts with inhaling into the diaphragm and expanding the belly like a balloon, which brings us into our personal power, he explains. Next bring the air up to expand the rib cage, and then finally into the upper chest, which is the heart space.

When breathing from the diaphragm and then moving into and expanding the chest, we are opening up our heart space and expanding our lungs, which carry sadness, grief and sorrow. That shuts down our life force, says Holtz. The more we expand our chest and lungs, the more life force we become.

Once the three-part breath is mastered, other techniques can be practiced, including the Ujjayi Breath (see sidebar on page 18), which heats the body, calms the mind and promotes relaxation, while also cleansing the nervous system. Another technique is called the Breath of Fire, which uses contractions of the abdomen to energize the body.

There are so many types of breathing exercises, and people need to find the technique they are personally drawn to, Holtz recommends. When someone says to me, I have no energy, I recommend the Breath of Fire. If someone finds they are too much in their head space, I recommend the Ujjayi Breath to help ground them and bring spirit back into the body. We can really use these techniques in different aspects of our life.

Although it may be an automatic function, breathing is a tool much more powerful than that. Each breath technique is unique and brings with it a totally different experience, he says. Experiment with each technique to see, which ones work best for you.