Breathing is the Breath of life
Here’s a collection of some stuff on the Breath of life. It all comes from the Hawaiian Huna Tradition. I was first introduced to it during my Practitioner Course at the Northern School of NLP where we looked at the simple breathing cycle which you can find here. I am not trained in any Huna traditions and simply offer this as a space where you may wish to view a collection of ways to think about breathing. My initial interest in breathing was sparked by my work on Aerophobia because relaxation at the airport prior to a flight really helps.
Resources: Pamela Turner; Vince;
Basic Cycle of Breath
There are four phases to the breath:
- Pause again before your next inhalation.
By controlling these phases you can activate and increase different energies to support you in whatever you need to do. As you begin to understand how this works, you will realize how powerful and useful this simple technique can be. I learned this Huna breathing technique in a training from the Huna Research Institute.
Looking at the picture, we see four elements and the four phases of the breath. The way to increase one energy in particular is to change the ratio of the breath.
An even ratio would be 1:1:1:1. Breathing in this way you would take a slow deep breath inhaling for one count, pausing for one count, exhaling for one count, pausing for one count before your next breath. Always place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth when breathing intentionally like this. If each breath was 4 seconds, then you would inhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds. Everyone is different. Perhaps you’re more comfortable with a three second breath, or two, or five. Find what works best for you.
So, breathing in an even ratio of 1:1:1:1 would be balancing.
If you want to increase your energy, you increase the Fire element 2:0:1:0. This is known as the fire breath and would increase the fire element in you, energizing you. I also think it would increase your metabolism and burn blood sugar, but that is for you to find out.
If you want to calm yourself, use 1:1:2:0. This type of breathing is often used in Yoga and has been called the Breath of Enlightenment. It is very relaxing.
To ground yourself, increase the Earth element 1:1:1:2.
Practice with different ratios and combinations to find out what works best for you. As with anything Huna, you are the one who decides what works best for you not someone else.
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Relax Your Racing Mind
We often find ourselves far from our center, far from our Self, with our thoughts dragging us everywhere but home. It is not onlly frustrating but stressful, when your mind starts running around like a wild horse and it can be very difficult to stop the run-away process.
So, how to get out of that racing state and get back to your calm center? How wonderful to be able to quiet your mind when it gets into that repetitive, racing, out-of-control state. Here is a quick way to do this that you can do anytime, anywhere during your day.
This is a very simple technique I developed, but as you will see, it’s very effective and even thouugh it is simple, there is alot going on to put you in the present moment and relax your racing mind!
- Start to breathe deeply and slowly.
- Create a gentle smile.
- Ask yourself, “I wonder what my next thought will be?”
- Watch for it and listen.
- When the next thought comes up, just acknowledge it, then ask yourself again, “I wonder what my next thought will be?”
Why this technique works so well!
Breathing slowly and deliberately – As your breathing slows down, your mind slows down.As you relax, you go from beta (left brain dominate state) to alpha, a more relaxed holistic state that connects body, mind and spirit.You are anchoring the quiet mind state to your deep breathing. As you keep repeating this, it gets easier and easier to quiet your mind because your body remembers what to do when you breathe deeply..
Creating a gentle smile – When you move your muscles into a smiling position, your body knows this as content or happy. It doesn’t care why you’re smiling, it just recognises the muscle movement. It responds by releasing endorphins that make you feel calm and happy.
When you ask yourself “I wonder what my next thought will be?” – You are setting your intent to watch your thoughts, not be them. You are wondering, just a gentle curiosity that doesn’t create resistance. You are identifying with your observer, your True Self, just watching in a peaceful, non-judgmental way. You are in the present moment, in your power.
This simple technique is very effective and will bring you inner peace whenever you need it. It’s very useful when you can’t get to sleep or when you want to defuse anger, and the more you practice it, the easier it gets! Let me know how this works for you!
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Piko Piko is an ancient breathing style used for centering and focus.
It literally means “center to center”. In Huna healing there are many energy centers, or piko points. The two most powerful are the navel and the crown of the head. The navel represents you physical source and lifeline while the crown symbolizes your connection with the aumakua, or spiritual realm.
You may perform the breathing pattern seated or standing. The process is as follows:
1. Get in a relaxed position
2. Put one hand on the crown of your head, and the other on your navel. You can use either hand for the positions.
3. Begin your deep breathing. Inhale while focusing on the crown of your head and exhale with attention on your navel. The hands will help you focus.
4. Continue until you feel energized. This could be anywhere from two-ten minutes.
5. You are now ready to ask questions of your spirit or make a prayer for manifestations in your life.
6. Close by thanking and blessing your spiritual source.
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THE ACTIVE MEDITATION OF THE KAHUNA
One meaning of Hakalau is, “To stare at as in meditation and to allow to spread out.” If you’ve never tried it before, right now, this technique can be a real eye opener. Try it.
- Ho’ohaka: Just pick a spot on the wall to look at, preferably above eye level, so that your field of vision seems to bump up against your eyebrows, but the eyes are not so high so as to cut off the field of vision.
- Kuu: “To let go.” As you stare at this spot, just let your mind go loose, and focus all of your attention on the spot.
- Lau: “To spread out.” Notice that within a matter of moments, your vision begins to spread out, and you see more in the peripheral than you do in the central part of your vision.
- Hakalau: Now, pay attention to the peripheral. In fact, pay more attention to the peripheral than to the central part of your vision.
- Ho’okohi: Stay in this state for as long as you can. Notice how it feels. Notice the ecstatic feelings that begin to come to you as you continue the state.
Hakalau is the means, then, in the Hawaiian system for entering a rapid trance state at will.
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Life is but a series of breaths. Breath is Life. We can live a long time without eating, a couple days without drinking, but life without breath is measured in minutes. Something so essential deserves our attention. Breath is the most important of all the bodily functions, in fact all the other bodily functions depend on breath.
As much as we are dependent on breath for life, so are we largely dependent on correct, healthy breathing habits for continued vitality and freedom from disease.
One of the first things we learn in Huna is that by controlling our breathing we can increase energy and vitality. On the other hand, incorrect, careless breathing leads to decreased vitality and opens us up to disease.
Civilization has changed our manner of breathing. Very few people breath correctly in today’s world. The results can be seen in poor posture, contracted chests, stooped shoulders, and the large amount of respiratory disease.
The foundation of health is a healthy bloodstream. Breathing is the way you fully oxygenate the body and thereby stimulate the electrical process of every cell in the body.
Breathing also stimulates the flow of the lymph fluid which contains white blood cells. The lymph system is the body’s sewage system. Every cell is surrounded by lymph. We have four times as much lymph fluid than blood! The blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the capillaries which diffuse them into the lymph fluid around each cell. The cells take only what they need and excrete toxins. Dead cells and other toxins must be eliminated by the lymph system, and the lymph system is activated by deep breathing!.
Whereas the blood system has a pump called the heart, the lymph system moves only through deep breathing and muscular movement.
Not only does physical health depend on correct breathing, our mental power, happiness, self-control, clear-sightedness, morals, and spiritual growth are dependent upon breath. Entire schools of Oriental Philosophy have been founded upon the “Science of Breath.”
In Huna we practice breathing exercises which allow us to gain control of our bodies and our selves, enabling us to send mana to any organ or area of thought (thought-form) to energize it and thereby strengthen ourselves and others. By controlled breathing we can not only cure disease, but also practically do away with fear, worry, and the baser emotions.
Although breathing is something we do naturally and automatically it is important to examine just how breath functions.
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The Mechanics Of Breathing
Breathing is accomplished through the elastic movements of the lungs and the activities of the thoracic cavity in which they are contained. The thorax is the portion of the body between the neck and abdomen. The thoracic cavity is occupied mainly by the heart and lungs. It is bound by the spine, the ribs and their cartilage, the breastbone and by the diaphragm below. It is more than simply the chest.
There are twenty-four ribs, twelve on each side which emerge from the spine. The upper seven pairs are called “true ribs” because they are fastened directly to the breastbone. The lower five pairs are called “floating ribs” because they are not directly attached. The upper two of them are fastened by cartilage to the other ribs and the lower three have free ends.
In respiration the ribs are moved by muscular layers known as the intercostal muscles. The diaphragm separates the thorax from the abdominal cavity.
In breathing the muscles expand the lungs so that a vacuum is created so that air rushes in (obeying that well-known law of physics). The whole process depends on the respiratory muscles. Without the muscles the lungs cannot expand.
So, in essence, the science of breathing relies on the proper control and development of these muscles resulting in the ability to attain the maximum degree of lung expansion and to secure the greatest amount of life-giving properties of air to the system. Proper breathing exercises allow us to efficiently accumulate the maximum amount of mana. This is essential to health and to the practice of Huna.
Categories Of Breathing
Upper Breathing. This is the most common method of breathing in Western society. This is also the worst type of breathing and is the source of many of our problems. One breathing this way elevates the ribs, collarbone and shoulders while drawing the abdomen in. The abdomen pulls up and pushes against the diaphragm, raising it.
In Upper Breathing only the upper part of the chest and lungs are used. This is the smallest area and so only the smallest amount of air enters the lungs. Also, because the diaphragm is being raised, there can be no expansion in that direction. Go back and review the mechanics of breathing. It will become quite obvious that Upper Breathing uses a maximum amount of effort and energy to obtain a minimum amount of benefit.
Upper breathing wastes energy. People who breath this way (most of our modern culture) are weak and unhealthy. Even athletes who should know better tend to breath this way and suffer because of it. Respiratory diseases and vocal problems can be directly traced to this manner of breathing which strains the delicate organs and results in harsh voices. People who breath this way often resort to mouth breathing which increases their problems.
Mid Breathing. This method of breathing is similar to Upper Breathing and only slightly better. In Mid Breathing the diaphragm is pushed up and the abdomen drawn in while the chest is raised somewhat and the chest partially expanded. The results are much the same.
Deep Breathing. This method of breathing is far better than either of the two preceding methods. Deep Breathing is well known among those who recognize the importance of breath in health and meditation. Many systems of breathing have been built around Deep Breathing. Many have benefited and much money has been made on Deep Breathing. It is, however, only a part of proper breathing. Deep Breathing must be understood before we can proceed to Complete Breathing.
You saw that in Upper and Mid Breathing the diaphragm is raised. The diaphragm is the great partition muscle separating the chest from the abdomen and its contents. At rest the diaphragm is like a dome above the abdomen. When it is used, the diaphragm is lowered to press down on the abdomen and force it out.
In Deep Breathing the diaphragm is used and the lungs are able to move more freely. This has led some to tout Deep Breathing as the best method as it is definitely superior to the previous methods.
The problem is that in none of these three methods do the lungs become completely filled with air. Even in Deep Breathing only a portion of the lungs are filled at best. Upper Breathing fills only the upper portion of the lungs. Mid fills only the middle and some of the upper part. Deep Breathing fills only the lower and middle parts.
It should be evident that a method which fills the entire lung space will be of the greatest value in allowing us to absorb the greatest quantity of oxygen and to generate the most mana. The Complete Breath is the best method known.
Complete Breathing. This method of breathing combines all the good points of Upper, Mid, and Deep Breathing while eliminating the objectionable features of each. It brings into play the entire breathing apparatus, every part of the lungs, every air-cell, and every respiratory muscle. The entire respiratory system responds to Complete Breathing and the maximum amount of benefit is derived from the minimum expenditure of energy. The chest cavity expands to its normal limits in all directions and every part of the breathing mechanism performs its natural function.
In Complete Breathing all the respiratory muscles are completely called into play. The other types of breathing use only a portion of these muscles. This means that the space for the lungs to expand increases and the muscles give support to the organs as needed. The diaphragm is under complete control and is able to function properly.
In the Complete Breath the lower ribs are pulled slightly downward by the diaphragm while other muscles hold them in place and the intercostal muscles pull them outward. This combined action increases the mid chest cavity to its maximum capacity. The upper ribs are lifted and forced outward by the intercostal muscles, increasing the capacity of the upper chest to its maximum capacity
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The Kahuna “Complete Breathing” technique
Complete Breathing should not be forced. This is a return to nature. Native people and infants breath this way naturally and that should be our goal. Once you have learned Complete Breathing it is not necessary to completely fill the lungs with every inhalation. This is an exercise for developing healthy habits and to be used several times a day in a controlled manner. With regular practice this manner of breathing will become a habit.
(1) Stand or sit erect. Inhale steadily through the nostrils. Fill the lower part of the lungs first by descending the diaphragm and thereby putting pressure on the lower abdominal organs, pushing the front wall of the abdomen forward. Next fill the middle part of the lungs by expanding the chest, pushing out the lower ribs and the breastbone. Finally fill the upper part of the lungs by protruding the upper part of the chest and thereby lifting the chest and the upper seven pairs of ribs. During this final movement the lower abdomen will be brought in slightly. This movement supports the lungs and helps fill the upper part of the lungs.
This breath is presented as three distinct movements, but the inhalation should be continuous, even, and fluid by expanding the entire chest, from the lowered diaphragm to the highest point of the chest in a uniform movement. Try to achieve an even, rolling action as you practice.
(2) Hold the breath for a few seconds.
(3) Exhale slowly through the mouth. As you do so hold the chest firmly in place, draw the abdomen in a little and lift it up slowly as the air leaves. When exhalation is complete you may relax the chest and abdomen. This requires a little practice at first, but it can easily become automatic.
Practice Complete Breathing in front of a mirror if possible with your hands over your abdomen so that you can feel the all movements.
Rhythm. Once you have the basic structure of Complete Breathing mastered you can begin rhythmic breathing. Try the Ha breath. Ha means four and it means breath. It is also the sound you should make when exhaling during the mana generating stage of the Ha Rite.
The four is divided into a ratio of 1:1:2 for the basic Complete Breath. This means you inhale for a count of one, hold the breath for a count of one and then exhale for a count of two. You hold the breath to allow full oxygenation of the blood and to activate the lymph system and you should take twice as long to exhale because that is when you are eliminating toxins.
It’s like Huna people have a reason for doing everything!
Use your heartbeat to establish a natural rhythm. You may want to start inhaling for a count of four beats, hold for four, and then exhale for eight. As you develop you can raise the number of beats for longer, slower breathing. This takes time. I started with a four count and now average an inhalation time of about thirty seconds, holding for thirty, and exhaling for sixty. Trained Yogis can take several minutes for one breath. Your breathing will improve with increased lung capacity and there’s no need to overdo it.
The Complete Breath is the foundation for all breathing. It should become your natural way of breathing, though as mentioned before you need not take it to the extreme with every breath. You should become comfortable with the Complete Breath, doing it naturally and evenly before proceeding with the following breathing exercises.
What follows are some Yoga breathing exercises which when combined with Huna and Complete Breathing with contribute to great health, wealth, wisdom, and happiness.
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The Kahuna “Cleansing Breath”
This breathing exercise ventilates and cleans the lungs. It stimulates the cells and tones the respiratory organs. You may conclude the other breathing exercises with the Cleansing Breath as it refreshes the entire system. It can be used after speaking or singing to rest the repertory system.
(1) Inhale a Complete Breath.
(2) Hold the breath a few seconds.
(3) Pucker the lips as if your were whistling without swelling the cheeks. Exhale a little air through the small opening with considerable force, stop for a moment (retaining the air), and then exhale a little more. Repeat this exhalation pattern until the air is completely out.
The Cleansing breath can be used any time you are tired. I use this breath any time I have been around smoke or other air pollutants.
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The Chanting Breath
This technique can be used by speakers, singers, or anyone to improve their voice. This exercise provides power, control, and clarity. This is to be used only as an exercise and not as a regulate form of breathing.
(1) Inhale a Complete Breath very slowly and steadily taking as much time as possible for inhalation.
(2) Hold the breath a few seconds.
(3) Exhale quickly in one vigorous breath with the mouth wide open. This should be done instantly and your mouth should be wide enough to insert four fingers vertically between the teeth, or as close to this ideal as you can comfortably get.
(4) Rest the lungs with the Cleansing Breath.
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The Oxygenizing Breath
This breathing exercise is designed to stimulate the air cells in the lungs. Do not overdo it. You will likely feel dizzy the first few times you do this. If you smoke or have smoked, do this only under supervision because you can pass out from the incredible rush of oxygen which your body is not used to. When I first tried this exercise I was about fourteen, spent hours each day riding (and racing) bicycles, and even I got dizzy the first couple times. Go easy and if you do get dizzy, walk around a little and discontinue the exercise for a while.
(1) Stand erect with your hands on your chest.
(2) Inhale a complete breath very gradually and slowly. As you do, gently tap your chest with the finger tips. Move your hands constantly so as to stimulate every inch of the lungs.
(3) When the lungs are filled, hold the breath and pat the chest with your palms. As you progress you can pat your chest more and more firmly.
(4) Practice the Cleansing Breath.
This exercise is very stimulating to the whole body. Many of the air cells in the lungs become inactive over time from incorrect breathing, smoking, etc. This exercise when done regularly can stimulate those cells back into activity over time. It is a very worthwhile exercise.
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