Breathing Techniques

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Becoming aware of the breath

Breathing is perhaps the most important thing we do. Without fresh oxygen the body can only survive a few minutes except under rare and unusual circumstances. Yet the science and art of breathing is completely unknown in the West. There are no breathing classes taught in schools yet the ancient sages discovered that breathing affects the mind and so proscribed ways of meditation and breathing to counter habitual practices.

Cultural significance

In t'ai chi ch'uan, aerobic training is combined with breathing to exercise the diaphragm muscles and to train effective posture, which both make better use of the body's energy. In music, breath is used to play wind instruments and many aerophones. Laughter, physically, is simply repeated sharp breaths. Hiccups, yawns, and sneezes are other breath-related phenomena.

Ancients commonly linked the breath to a life force. The Hebrew Bible refers to God breathing the breath of life into clay to make Adam a living soul. It also refers to the breath as returning to God when a mortal dies. The terms "spirit," "qi," "prana" and "psyche"[1] are related to the concept of breath.


Pranayama is the practice in which the control of prana is achieved (initially) from the control of one's breathing. According to Yogic philosophy the breath, or air, is merely a gateway to the world of prana and its manifestation in the body. In yoga, pranayama techniques are used to control the movement of these vital energies within the body, which is said to lead to an increase in vitality in the practitioner. However, intensive practice [2] of these techniques is not trivial. Kason [3] describes situations where intensive pranayama techniques may have adverse effects on certain practitioners. According to kundalini yoga, intensive and systematic practice of pranayama can lead to the awakening of kundalini.


Sit in a chair with your back upright yet relaxed with your feet flat on the floor. Place the hands in a comfortable position and close the eyes and do nothing but watch the breath as it flows in and out of the nostrils. Keep your atention on the breath as it flows in and out of its own accord. If you find yourself thinking, gently let the thoughts go and return the attention to the natural flow of breath.


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