Breathe... For stress, anxiety, and even weight loss (part 3 of 3)
Last time I taught you how to belly breathe. This is also called diaphragmatic breathing. This week I want to teach you the 5 element breaths, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether.
Some of you might know different versions of these breaths from different traditions. I learned these five breaths through the Sufi tradition, but have also added some subtleties of my own from things I have picked up from other traditions and practices.
In my opinion there isn't a right or wrong. My goal is to give you a place to start and then you can play and experiment with your own body and see what works for you. What I want to show you is that you have the ability to harness the power of your breath to induce different states of mind and produce different effects. But don't take my word for it, try it!
These breaths are simple, and all can be done while maintaining your belly breathing.
The Earth breath is in through the nose and out through the nose. It helps us ground, feel solid in our bodies, and radiate a nurturing presence. It is calming and has a steady, easy quality. If you want to imagine a movement with it it is one of expansive horizontal movement.
I like to try and make this breath my default, baseline breath. It is a good breath for me in my resting state. I feel calm and steady and confident when I breathe this way.
The Water breath is in through the nose, and out through the mouth. This is the one I suggested in the last post, to help you really extend the exhale and thereby up regulate your parasympathetic, rest and repair, state, and down regulate your sympathetic, fight or flight response. Breathe in, deeply, through your nose, then blow out through pursed lips as if pushing air slowly through a very thin straw. Make this exhale last as long as you can, bringing your abdominal muscles in to assist you in fully emptying before your next inhale. Notice how with each breath your are warming the air as it comes in through your nostrils, and releasing cool moist air through the mouth. The movement that goes with the water breath is one of downward release.
This is my go to breathe for when I am feeling a bit anxious. Or if something has riled me up and I am trying to calm and collect myself. Try it next time you are feeling nervous or anxious. And imagine the nervous energy leaving you on your long exhale. It is a great breath for cleansing your energy field as well if you feel you have absorbed energies that aren't yours.
The Fire Breath is in through the mouth and out through the nose. It is one that builds heat in the body and helps to fuel that fire within that is sometimes needed to push through transformation. It's movement is upwards and out.
Next time you are shivering outside waiting for the bus or your Uber ride try some fire breaths and see if you can warm yourself up! Or if you are feeling sluggish and need a little kick of adrenaline for your day, rather than drinking a cup of coffee try some fire breathing. If I am feeling shy and introverted, but need to do something that requires more outward extroverted energy I will use the fire breath to kick my butt into my action.
Now we have the Air breath. Air is in and out both through the mouth. It is a breath that invokes a sense of freedom and possibility. Imagine a big yawn and a big sigh out. Let it all go. The Motion that goes with the air breath is a zig zag, and it helps to release us from constructs and connect us with the cosmos.
After a big event you may find yourself wanting to use the air breath, as it is truly a sigh of relief and release. It is a breath that helps to get oxygen to all parts of our system. And for some of us this breath may also feel like our default, baseline breath.
The last breath is the breath of Ether, a subtle, gentle breath through both nose and mouth at the same time. It evokes a quality of peace, unity, and stillness. While many of the other breaths may bring forth a sound, this one is barely perceptible. And it connects with the energy of the void.
Try it and see what it does for you. Try them all, in sequence, a minute with each breathe, as a meditation, or individually, as fitting to the energy you wish to create in the moment. And notice and observe your body and your mind.
Have fun! And I hope you enjoyed this series on breath and it's power to act as a bridge from our mind to our body, our conscious to our unconscious.
I love to hear from my readers so let me know if you have any questions or comments. If you try these exercises and have an experience please share! Or if you have favorite breath practices of your own share those too! There are so many breathing techniques and practices out there, and hopefully this will get you started and curious to go out and explore and see what works for you! And if there is a topic you want to hear about next please let me know!
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