One curious thing about breathing is that it happens automatically or consciously.
What’s even more interesting is when we put our attention on the breath and try not to control it.
Control is very easy and it feels pretty solid. We can lengthen or shorten and strengthen or soften our breathing. But when we only feel the air moving in our nose and avoid actively participating, it becomes very difficult to discern if we are completely relaxed.
The way we control our breathing can be more or less dynamic. What I mean is that we can make our breathing more intense, that’s obvious. Making breathing easier can also be a type of control.
Natural breathing begins when there is an absolute minimum of action while becoming aware of the sensation of breathing. And that’s just the beginning of the feeling of coming in, relaxing so much deeper.
I think this ancient practice of breathing awareness deserves a special category to differentiate it. Because the typical description of breathing textbooks is that they can be voluntary or involuntary. There really is a third possibility, it can be consciously involuntary
I know this sounds like breaking my hair and I’m pretty happy with this allusion because natural breathing is the equivalent of meditation of nuclear fission. When it comes to finding the inner witness, breathing is the pump that cleans the path or if you prefer a broom that sweeps.
The first dramatic realization when you concentrate on this still point of not doing while breathing is the mystery of time. Some people say that there is only the present moment and others that there is no exact present, rather that time is a continuum with a neuronal delay between the objective event and subjective consciousness.
Einstein brilliantly assumed that time can pass faster or slower depending on the density of the gravitational fields. Taking our inner experience of natural breathing a word that concretizes our perception of time is immanence. It’s kind of timeless. We don’t know if it’s the present or if time is fast or slow. Just hold your breath and avoid the intellect.
This momentary illusion is usually mixed with a sense of sustained presence. Time as a wave rather than as a particle. Very occasionally, for some people, this moment in time becomes a gateway into a wormhole to an altered experience of an inner universe. Most of the time, however, other thoughts prevent us from finding that sense of time.
This is the big picture of the possibilities and I would like to keep things simple and focus on the process rather than the results.
Natural breath is very subtle. To get closer you should have the feeling of not knowing if it is happening completely. You can try it now for a few breaths. Sit still with your eyes closed and feel the air move through your nose. You can actively relax your breath by letting it flow very gently. Then check to see if it is possible to continuously release your breath control while focusing only on the sensation in your nose.
Your personal natural breathing will have its own length and depth. The way your body breathes is synergistically related to your stress levels. The body’s metabolic rate is carefully constructed by a sensitive nervous system that controls both internal and external information.
External views, sounds and movements cause internal changes in heart rate and respiratory rate. Everything happens very quickly and obviously the best place to practice tuning in with natural breathing is where you can feel safe with a minimum of disturbance.
I have described natural breathing as consciously involuntary or simultaneously conscious of breathing without breathing. This is an essential practice for a preliminary type of yoga known as Dhyana which means a state of mental absorption. In Dhyana there is an effortless care experience.
There is a feeling that the consciousness of the breath holds the attention and the mind does not push it towards this place. There is a special kind of attention that produces the best result. As if you were watching out of the corner of your eye, slightly interested in what was going on, but also connected to the inner peace of a still clam mind.
There are many secondary practices that can help you find this type of experience, such as working with the body, thoughts, memories, and emotions. All of them very useful and practical to complete a larger yoga organization. Then there is the deeper state of yoga that the witness observes, how to look at the attention instead of looking at the breath.
But keeping things simple, I would like to talk about a single alternative to effortless breathing that helps to orient yourself in practice and that is to really control your breathing.
As I mentioned, we can control our breathing to make it very soft and gentle and gentle. It’s still voluntary controlled breathing, but it comes close to surrender and makes it easier to let go. It is a starting point to go down.
So when you try to find natural breathing, go ahead and really breathe very gently with the rhythm. Then let the body breathe on its own.
I like to limit myself to just this intervention or response to the difficulty of finding natural breath. I find that to be the perfect step. Alternatives could be to relax the body or eyes, clear the mind or recite a mantra or chant.
Natural breathing can be used not only in meditation, but also in asana and pranayama. Especially in pranayama we see that natural breathing becomes the perfect practice for the restoration of different styles of controlled breathing. It is the litmus test of the stress response that gives the correct measure of how long to pause between exercises and after practice.
If we use natural breathing in meditation, starting with gentle conscious breathing helps a lot to draw attention in a fixed way. Gradually releasing control and switching to natural breathing, the attention is also softened. There is a big difference between well-focused attention and diffuse gentle awareness. This difference can be seen in the frequency levels of electrical waves produced by the brain, but that’s another story.
Thus, when it is difficult to draw attention, if there are external distractions or internal thoughts and emotions, it can be very helpful to focus on gentle breathing. This can happen many times during a single meditation session.
The location of natural breath is not limited to the nostrils. We can feel the breath in many parts of the body and it is wonderful to explore it.
The second most important place to find natural breath is in the diaphragm. This depends to some extent on the ability to breathe diaphragmatically, so the nose is the first as it is more available. But if you can feel the movement and pressure change in your upper abdomen and lower ribs, use it.
When we focus on the nose, the information in the eyes seems somehow more distracting. As you move toward the diaphragm, the sensation becomes more grounded, more somatic, and less visual.
The principle of gradually moving from gentle control to total surrender works exactly the same as natural diaphragmatic breathing. Start by breathing gently and feeling the movement. It is no problem to use an absolute minimum of control. Expand the abdomen by inhaling and guide it inward on exhalation. Then, once the focus is well focused, start releasing control. See if you can relax your abdomen instead of activating it during both inhalation and exhalation.
I will write about many other aspects of breathing and practicing yoga. I hope this article is helpful in exploring the subtle and finding specificity in your own game with breathing and attention. Having a simple and clear technique eliminates a lot of confusion about how to practice.
This piece was written to describe how natural breathing is consciously involuntary. Related articles ask why our natural breathing is unique and what it tells us about stress and how other types of breathing exercises improve and help (or disrupt) natural breathing.
A very big issue that I haven’t touched on here is what goes through our minds to distract us from the ability to find focus. Emotions, memories and plans and cover other posts.
For more information on my work, please see my site. I am a yoga therapist and teacher who loves to teach how to teach and how to practice and I work with people to find the most useful and rewarding practices.
#Natural #breath #Noah #McKenna
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