Learn what your breath is telling you – Introduction to Breath Sciences for those interested in becoming breathwork facilitators or breath masters.
I’ll soon be recording a breathwork training program and leading a level 1 facilitation program to begin others on their breath journey to know more about their breath, or to become a facilitator. In light of this, I will be sharing Breath Science material that will offer an introduction to the kind of material covered in the course.
Today’s topic: Breath Patterns and their mental-emotional correlations
How the breath flows into your bodymind (bodymind recognizes body and mind are one unit) is how you think and feel. It may be beneficial to think of the bodymind as a wind instrument, and the wind is the breath of the great musician that gives life to the body. The harmonics of your instrument (how you think and feel and experience life) depend on how you hold your physical frame, what emotions are being held or expressed, and what qualities of mind are being experienced. These and many other factors determine how the breath flows through the instrument which determines the qualities of your consciousness. Through this understanding, learning the science of the breath, involves an understanding of how we can change our body position, such as in yoga, and how that changes our respective state of consciousness. For the purposes of this article we will examine the breathing mechanism while an individual is lying on their back and breathing in a circular rhythm -inhale and exhale are connected without pause- and exploring different breathing patterns and their possible connections to mental-emotional patterning.
How to use this material:
This material is for educational purposes only and is not to be used as a diagnosis. This is introductory information and will offer you an innerstanding of your bodymind and your patterns of breathing, and their possible mental-emotional correlations. The material presented is not comprehensive, as it is out of the scope of this article to list all the possible breathing patterns and dysfunctions, as well as the possible correlations and treatments. Further, there are too many correlations within every specific breathing pattern to gather a proper diagnosis from just reading the breath, once again, this material is meant as an introduction to breath pattern diagnosis.
Short Breath Practice to Gather Information:
Before beginning, I recommend following this breathing protocol – estimated time 10 minutes.
- Begin my setting a safe space where you will be undisturbed and where you can fully relax.
- Lie on your back – mouth open – jaw relaxed – throat open – shouldered released – belly soft.
- Take a few moments to disengage the muscles and close the eyes.
- Breath in and out through an open mouth without any pauses.
- Create a breath wave that begins at your pelvic floor, stomach will expand out with the breath, then heart, then release the breath without control. The breath will form a circular pattern through the body, up the front of the body, down and around the spine.
- Become a witness of the breath and body by expanding your awareness to observe your whole body and breath process and let go to allow a natural (not too controlled) rhythm to take place. – we are looking for your natural breathing pattern, that being said, too much force and control won’t give an accurate breathing pattern.
- Vibrant and full inhales, relaxed exhales.
- Expand the breath deep and full, for ~ 6 minutes, then allow the effort and expansion to decrease as you allow the breath to wind down, and become more shallow, and effortless, until your not controlling the breath at all and simply resting (approx. 4 minutes for wind down).
- ***key point: be aware of the breath, your body, the energy of your body, if there is any holdings or tightness you can witness or observe, what emotions you may experience, and any other observations. It may be advantageous to write this information down before continuing onto the breath pattern diagnosis information.
Breath Pattern Diagnosis Information:
This section will give a list of several breathing patterns and information of why they may be occurring. From your experience in the breathing practice you may have observed areas in your body where the breath did not flow well, or perhaps there was resistance to letting go of the exhalation. These are all indicators of areas where there is an opportunity to create more ease and flow in the breathing mechanism.
Note: it can be a challenge to witness your own breath patterning because it is often a subconscious pattern in your system, for best results, please see a certified breathwork instructor with adequate understanding of breath pattern diagnosis.
- A controlled exhalation
The exhalation of the breath is related to the capacity to let go. Control on the exhalation and an inability to surrender that control indicates an unwilling to let go. The control, or inability to let go may be in the throat (which will give a sound on the exhalation), it may be a tightening of the chest, or firming of the diaphragm, or several other areas. Depending on where the breath is being controlled indicates where the respective energy block is (energy block – may be mental, emotional, or physical in nature).
- Inviting awareness to surrender, with the recognition that it is safe to surrender. When the nervous system becomes stressed, it becomes tight and activates many biological processes which signal that it is not safe to let go. By becoming aware of this process, speaking to the subconscious, and allow the time and possibly the support needed, the bodymind can begin to soften and release these pent up tensions and the associated energy block(s).
- Take a deep breath and hold it, then release.
- Take a double inhale (belly – heart), then surrender exhale.
- Utilize dance, a work-out, or vigorous movement and shaking, then come to lie down and see if the additional energy and the corresponding relaxation can cause a ripple of surrender to release the blockage.
- Breathing is shallow and fast – can’t take deep breath
Shallow and fast breathing often indicates stress and a blocked emotional charge in the system. The natural tendency when one is feeling relaxed and positive is a slow, full and deep breath. Conversely, when we encounter stress or experience an emotion we are resistant to feeling, the tendency is to diminish the breath, which corresponds to feeling less, and subsequently prevents the emotion from being experienced fully, but also relates to not processing that emotion or fear or stress, and thus it blocks the system. Because a full deep breath into the full body indicates a metaphoric saying “yes” to life, a shallow breath (which may also be paired with a blockages in a certain area) indicates a metaphoric shutting down of one’s openness to life and what is arising in their system.
- Softening into feeling, and then assess where in the body there may be a block and then breathing into this area, expanding the feeling, expressing it, then releasing it.
- Movement -yoga, dance, sport, martial arts- then surrender to the breath.
- Affirmations – “I say yes to life”
- Every inhale taking a deeper breath, and over time allowing the natural process of the breath to open up the bodymind.
Note: an individual will ‘open up’ or surrender to feeling(s) when they (the nervous system or larger intelligence of the bodymind) feel safe to surrender. This may require time or the support of another.
- The abdomen is not receiving breath
When the breath is focused only in the upper regions of the abdomen, or perhaps only up in the chest and heart, and the breather experiences a decreased capacity to maintain the breath in the abdomen, it indicates a level of avoidance. In terms of bodymind mapping, there a great deal of energy and information contains in our abdomen. The abdomen houses the 3 lower chakras, it contains the diaphragm, and many of our organs and vital gland centers. The science of bodymind mapping is a bit peculiar, Chinese medicines looks an organ systems and tracks various emotions with different organs (ex. Liver = anger), other bodymind mapping systems will have different ways of laying out where we hold different emotions and beliefs. It can be a bit confusing when there are so many with contradictory information, and some systems seem to work with some breathers, and others don’t. My advise is, read them, see if they work for you and your body – you’ll know it works when you it causes a shift in your energy. But, then don’t assume it will work on someone else.
Trust your intuition. With that being said, the abdomen is associated with holding lower density emotions such as fear, guilt, shame, and other forms of self-judgement. Further, when an individual resists to breath into their abdomen, they will be less present in their physical body. There are dozens of key places in abdomen to assess, such as along the diaphragm, liver, stomach, gallbladder, 2 inches below navel, kidneys, etc. Each area may store a different energy block to be cleared.
- Placing a heating pad or sand-bag on the area can help to maintain the awareness in the belly.
- Practicing pranayama before conscious connected breathing exercises.
- Place the feet on the floor, knees up.
- Cold shower or cold bath.
- Lie face down.
- Massage tummy as your breath.
- The upper chest is not receiving breath
Areas to assess, where does the breath disconnect as it travels from pelvis to heart? Where does the breath feel tight? – Sternum, middle of chest, sides of chest, upper chest, etc.
The chest houses the lungs and heart and is one of the primary centers for emotions and love to be experienced. There may be some resistance to opening the heart and thus feeling, expressing, receiving, or giving love. Challenges around grief, sadness, anger, and compassion may be present. Also, there could be an inability to expand certain areas of the lungs.
- Practicing Tonglen Meditation or Compassion meditation.
- Having a facilitator offer a loving touch and presence to the heart.
- Push-ups, then heart openers (yoga) before breathing.
- Tapping on the chest.
- Double inhale, belly then chest.
- Pressure on the solar plexus, to aid in the flow of breath to cross the diaphragm and enter into the chest
End of part 1.
I’ll be posting more in the future….but if you have any questions on your breathing patterns, feel free to leave a comment.