The Breathing Wave and The Speed Bump of Life

http://www.breathing.com/articles/breathwave.htm

To begin to unravel the mysteries and power of the breathing improvement we need to combine the approaches of science, psychological exploration and spiritual practice. My intention is to awaken you to the awesome power of breathing and to guide you toward an ability to harness some of its power. Heightened breathing experiences result in heightened quality of life.

A normal, relaxed, fully functional, balanced breath is like a wave. The breathing wave must be able to freely transition in through the nose and down towards the bottom of the pelvis or foundation and the feeling of that should be as if the breath is always connected to this foundation.  

Though the chest will eventually rise, the emphasis of the in-breath should be heading to and staying at the bottom of the pelvis or foundation. So we breathe into the foundation but the breath comes up into the chest in a balanced way if we have enough emphasis on maintaining the foundation or what singers call support. If we do not engage the foundation well enough the wave comes up to into the the chest like a tsunami and overwhelms the shore line or upper chest with too much breath. That is the essence of high chest breathing. It is not about breathing up into the chest, it is about not having a strong enough support to stay connected with the foundation.  This is the essence of grounding

To better understand this breath wave, imagine lying down at the beach, on your back, with your feet pointed toward the water. Watch the rise of the ocean out about 50 yards.

This is your breath or breathing wave. Watch the calm, surf-less water rise and raise the belly and chest in the inhale and recede on the exhale. Imagine that it comes to your left where it meets the-uppermost part of the shore (the back of the top of your head), then recede back toward the depths of the ocean (your belly). Think of the water as your life force. Imagine your chin as a rubber raft that is gently raised as the water approaches the uppermost part of the shore (the top of the back of your head). That’s the inhalation. For the exhalation imagine the water receding and dropping somewhat evenly overall and slightly faster in the chestarea. Watch the animation for the idea of ebb and flow. This breathing wave pattern may be too fast or too slow for you but try breathing with it 10-20 times. How does it make you feel? Energized? Calm? Anxious? If you’ve watched waves rush in and recede, you will know what I mean. If you’ve never been near the ocean, watch the animation and let it breathe you.
Several variations in the breath wave may cause it to go out of balance; for example, instead of rising and coming forward to raise the belly, chest and chin, it may stay level or sink downward (as if some one were pressing down) not allowing it to rise or fall. It may halt, then push upward again, having lost momentum and its smooth transition. We experience this as feeling “breathless” or “stuck”.

The speed bump functions like a breakwater that restricts the natural ebb and flow of the breath. It may appear as a hitch or shuddering movement as the breath-wave travels erratically up or down within a breath cycle. The degree to which the breath cannot transition is the degree to which we get stuck emotionally and mentally, feeling anxiety, fear or numbness. 

Directly above the speed bump and visible in the path of the  breath, in the middle portion of the chest is often a concave, sunken area. 

The speed bump causes the caved in portion to stay that way instead of expanding with the deeper in-breath. At that point it is like trying to breathe
5 liters into a 2 litter bottle.
If the chest itself isn’t visibly sunken or concave, its energetic counterpart may take the form of a dip in the breath wave. I refer to these collectively as depressions. This depression can feel like being held in a bear hug or like the sensation caused by a sudden dip in the road that lifts your stomach toward your throat, momentarily taking your breath away.

It can also be so subtle that you don’t realize that your breath, power or full self-expression, has been compromised. The free movement of the breath in transition over the speed bump into this dip ordepression becomes restricted. Through any combination of surgery, habit, improper exercise, negative attitude or a chronic “startle reflex,” the breath may be further restricted by tight abdominal muscles. These muscles will not let go and soften as the diaphragm draws in air. These obstructions inhibit a smooth flow between the belly breath and the high chest breath, reducing the spontaneously balancing force each can have on the other.

Tension and energy blockage in the thoracic area of the body can result in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dysfunction. The ancients called the lower thorax the “abdominal brain”.

A portion of this “brain” is the diaphragm, -which I call the “speed bump of life.” The “speed” of human possibility depends largely upon spontaneously accessing the balancing energies of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses. Those responses are in great part controlled by our intention(s) and the way we breathe.

Breathing is the foundation of our centering, emotional intensity and physical equilibrium, our feeling sense of internal power, physical satisfaction and fulfillment. Without the balance of this primary energy source, we can easily be lost in emotional and/or mental extremes. We can actively control and liberate our breath and through that we can influence our responses to almost every situation in our lives.  A very small part of our conscious mind is engaged in guiding the breath in order to control the greater part of our mental and emotional responses. Purposefully balanced breathing supports a self regulated mind/body experience.

A few indicators of unbalanced breathing are tightness in the chest, sore ribs and sternum, pressure,  ticklishness (not the light-touch type of ticklishness), low energy, chronic illness, fear or depression, frequent colds, poor attention, sighing or yawning, poor posture, and an inability to catch the breath. An irregular breathing pattern is a tip off. Repeating a poor breathing pattern over time will restrict or lock up the diaphragm, and the musculature of the pelvis, stomach, back, chest, throat, jaw and eyes.Expressions like “gutless” and “intestinal fortitude” speak of how attitudes, tension, and anxiety are associated with these areas. Unhealthy cravings, addictions and inappropriate responses may be weakened or eliminated as a balanced breath wave is re-established.

To deny our body responses and somatic awareness is to suppress millions of years of somatic evolution and survival mechanisms. We resist unwanted information and related feelings by holding, or reducing our breath. So, if someone is speaking and it seems logical but you notice your breath becoming slower, more shallow, faster, or deeper, you probably have an issue, positive or negative, with the information. It will pay off to become more conscious of your breath, body sensations, and the situation.

The next time you feel your breath catching or find it suppressed, you might think of it as a message that excessive stress is fast approaching. Notice if you are afraid, anxious, at a loss for words or in some way less than. Then take one or more (sometimes hundreds are necessary) long, slow, deep breaths. Start in your belly and maintain a foundation there while letting the breath move up to the top of the chest. MAKE SURE you do not allow the belly to become smaller than the chest (this is where most teachings go wrong as the allowing of the chest getter larger from upward pressure weakens the foundation of the breathing and voice).  Then exhale by letting go. Many people do this without thinking,  others not at all, as their attitudes, breathing strategies, muscles and the speed bump resist. 

Cigarette smokers take a deep drag off a cigarette to relax or collect their thoughts—but it isn’t so much the nicotine but the breathing that can focus, relax or energize; the belief that these effects come from the cigarette reinforces their dependence.

A significant, easy-to-measure life change can be made by reducing an abdominal based resting breath rate to fewer than 6 breaths per minute.  Success is assured by practicing a few simple but specific breathing development techniques and exercises a few minutes each day.

Books abound with references to breathing exercises, but few people who read about breathing exercises make a practice of them—why?   Like chocolate must be tasted,  breathing must be felt. 

People experiencing balanced breathing tend to better release unresolved emotions, trauma, pain, and limiting beliefs, becoming more relaxed, alive, loving, passionate and powerful.

Clearly, breathing exercises positively or negatively affect or control functioning in the neo-cortex, limbicsystem, vagus nerve, autonomic nervous system, and all basic bodily functions and subtle energy systems. The health professional, as somatic educator, has an  excellent opportunity to help clients regain full breathing capacity and aliveness, while simultaneously adding to the respect of their modality. 

By appropriately and sensitively incorporating certain aspects of breathing development, one can facilitate an incredible opportunity for empowerment and personal growth. Reducing and eliminating the speed bump