The chestnut sidled and pranced beneath me. I soothed him once more, and forced myself to cycle through the Five Styles of Breathing.
The Breath of the Pulse of the Earth, drawn into the pit of the belly and the depths of the groin, inhaled and exhaled through the mouth.
The Breath of Ocean’s Rolling Waves, drawn in through the nostrils to the middle belly, out through the mouth.
The Breath of Trees Growing, circulating energy to the limbs, trading nourishment with the world.
The Breath of Embers Glowing, in and out through parted lips, quickening the heart and warming the blood.
The Breath of Wind’s Sigh, pulled and expelled through the nostrils into the space between my eyes, making my head light.
Jacqueline Carey, Naamah’s Curse
People, like all animals, need to breathe. Its necessary for cellular respiration–brings in oxygen and rids the body of carbon dioxide. Inhalation brings in air (and filters it using cilia and mucousal membranes), and exhalation takes it back out. Biomechanically speaking, breath travels in through our nose (or mouth), through our larynx (voice box), into the trachea, the bronchi, bronchioles, and into the aveoli (special blood vessels in the aveoli exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood cells).
But when we focus on our breath meditatively, we can feel it traveling through out our body, beyond just our lungs. Anapanasati is a Buddhist meditative technique centered on the mindfulness of breathing. The goal is to feel the sensation of breath through the body as one breathes. To do this, I’ve adapted the Five Styles of Breathing from Jacqueline Carey’s Naamah series (while I tried to keep them close to the book as possible, there were some modifications for what I felt made for better energy work and clearing).
- Breath of Ocean’s Rolling Waves–Breathe with a light but long inhale through the nose as the breath flows in and slides down along the central axis of the body (corresponding with the nadi for those familiar with chakra work) to the area of the solar plexus chakra, where it pools briefly before flowing back up and out through the throat with the mouth open in a way that feels almost like making the sound “huh”. Focus on clearing your self of burdensome emotions. Repeat until you feel calm and still (or as calm and still as you get).
- Breath of the Pulse of the Earth–Breath in slowly and deeply through the mouth, down through the belly, and into the groin. Circulate the breath between the Sacral and Root chakras and allow it to ground you, connecting you to the earth. As you exhale, purse your lips and slowly but strongly blow out your air. Repeat until you feel solid and seated in the earth.
- Breath of Embers Glowing–Breathe with a naturally paced breath in and out through parted lips as if blowing on the embers of a fire to get it to relight. Allow your breath to ignite in the area of your heart chakra, warming the blood and spreading that warmth to the body as it travels into your muscles and organs. Focus on kindling your compassion until it permeates your entire being. Repeat until you have acknowledged and released any excess ego.
- Breath of Tree’s Growing–Breathe in deeply but swiftly through the nose, holding the breath before exhaling through the mouth. Push your breath outwards on the exhale, down your limbs and past your fingers and toes, and draw it back along the same path, exchanging nourishment with the world. Focus on building the web of connections between you and the world. Repeat until you feel renewed.
- Breath of Wind’s Sigh–Breathe swiftly and lightly in and out through the nose, up into the space between the eyes into the top of the head (the area of the Third Eye and Crown chakras). Focus it filling the space like a balloon and expanding your brain, your mind, your very thoughts. Repeat until you feel expansive and embracing.
(originally posted on my personal blog, 25 March 2015)