Breath and Meditation
The Nose Knows
Healthy and Unhealthy Breathing
With healthy, normal breath, the air drawn fully into the lungs expands the belly and chest, pulling the shoulders up and drawing the head more erect without any conscious effort. There is a brief pause at the top of the inhale, before the breath is released. Head and shoulders relax. At the bottom of the exhalation there is another brief pause before beginning to inhale again. These pauses are subtle and are simple resting points in the body rhythm, not tensely held postures; but if the breathing rhythm does not include them, the breath will not be full, and a pattern of anxiety will ensue.
The slight rhythmic curling and uncurling of the body is necessary for fully effective breath; without it, a rigidly held erect posture will prevent the breath from distributing fully. Although barely perceptible, healthy breath will find the belly slightly forward at full inhale, slightly back at full exhale. The result is a rhythm of polarized charge passing back and forth which refreshes the cells.
The full breath expresses strength and competence, while the empty breath expresses surrender and trust. When we alternate between these two, passing them through each other, we lead happy lives.
But if anxiety and fear dominate the breathing, a pattern known as counter-pulsation occurs. Most persons in western society are breathing in some degree of counter-pulsation. Here on the inhale, the chin and neck pull backward, pulling the forehead down and ahead. This is a posture of dominance and control over the environment, rather than integration with it. When this occurs, at exhale the neck is thrust forward when the breath is empty, presenting a posture of submission and weakness. The organism will react to this by rapidly grasping for another breath in order to return to a feeling of safety and control. Although this breathing pattern may distort to predominance in either direction - chronic need for control, or chronic submissiveness - the anxiety in reaching for the opposite breath creates inadequate oxidation and an overall pattern of splitting. Control turns to rage, and submissiveness to depression and death-wish.
Meditative breath is simply to follow the breathing rhythms consciously, bringing them as much as possible into the integrated state of full inhale and full exhale - the head and body breathing together.
Sinus and Psi-Key (Psyche)
The nose is the reflex to the spine. Breath passing from the world through the nose activates all seven spinal chakras, or energy centers.
In healthy breath, it is not only lungs, belly and chest which expand and contract, but also the nostrils. Vigorous and pleasurable breathing will be accompanied on inhale by a palpable but not harsh flaring of the nostrils. Some of the oxygen and much of the prana (sublte energy) entering the stretched filaments of the nostrils will pass directly to the sinus (7th chakra), without having to make the journey through the lungs. This prana and accompanying odors and other chemical patterns will present a pattern through the sinus to the brain, allowing the body to directly experience the surrounding world without being processed as clues and thoughts. Thus the brain returns to its organic function of recording and reflecting patterns to consciousness, rather than having to assemble and enforce them.
In this sense the Sinus is the Psi-in-Us - the psychic center of the body. We breath in direct awareness of both physical and subtle or etheric presences in the surrounding world. Not only flora, fauna, earth and weather, but etheric, astral and spiritual entities become palpable and may actually enter and pass through us. We feel fully connected in multiple dimensions, and are able to react appropriately to the integrated needs of a total environment which is not only ourselves plus whatever we meet, but the mutual being of that world of which we are one focal resonance point. We are in harmony, or in harmonics, with what is around us.
After the conscious integration of body and breath rhythms, the next element in meditative breath is the conscious integration of the experience of the inside of our nose. When fully accomplished, we not only 'smell' the world around us, but 'taste' it, and the physical sensations of pleasure may begin to translate into visiual and audial awarenss. The separation of our senses reverts to a more pan-sensual unity.
To enter a good meditative breathing state, it is not necessary to experience every possibility immediately. It is simply desirable to reach the state where we are consciously enjoying our breath - relaxing and enjoying the experience of the world moving in and out of us. Begin by focusing on the inside of the nostrils, and feeling the slight tingling sensation there of the oxygen and prana entering your system. Be sure your head and body are breathing together, as described above. Then let yourself enjoy the experience. Let the rest develop.
Fire breath accelerates the movement of energy in the body and can be used to open blocks, access emotions, induce kriyas (spontaneous body movements), or move energy into dreams, ideas, intentions or silence. It serves as an additional technique to those listed above.
Fire breath is done entirely through the nose, with nostrils flared. The focus is on rapid expulsion of air, forcing the air out of the lungs. Inhale will take place automatically as air rushes into a vacuum. There is no pause between inhale and exhale,
or exhale and inhale. The breath is rapid, but should not be forced at a pace you cannot sustain. For experienced meditators and yogis, fire breath can be sustained up to a half-hour, but for beginners not more than 5 minutes. Go until you feel heat moving through the body and perhaps slightly dizzy. Then return to long deep breathing in the manner described above. When the energy has distributed and you feel some other level of experience beginning - visions, sensations, deep trance or whatever it may be - release focus on the breath.