Currently 90 percent of people are breathing at 50 percent of their lung capacity, which can increase the stress on our hearts, lead to anxiety, low energy and many diseases. Our current breathing patterns aren’t necessarily bad — or wrong. Shallow, choppy, reverse or mouth breathing — all these breathing types have served us in some way. Sometimes our breathing helps us have some sense of control in traumatic situations or helps us suppress emotions when we aren’t in a safe or appropriate place to express them. Our breathing rhythm can help us blend in with the world around us.
But breathing shallowly is not ideal. Other types of breathing, such as conscious, connected breathing can help us to lead deeper, richer and healthier lives. Although unfamiliar to most people, this type of breathing has the potential to stimulate altered states, to release blockages and open ourselves to new pathways.
Conscious, connected breathing expands the breath and increases energy, freeing the body from its emotional rigidity that makes breathing naturally — like when we were babies — difficult. This emotional rigidity comes from birth, death, surgery, crime, car accidents, abuse, loss of close family members or friends, illnesses and other incidents that do not get fully processed. Each one of these unprocessed events can get trapped inside our bodies and makes it a little harder to breathe.
To begin conscious, connected breathing, inhale and exhale deeply, yet quickly through the nose or inhale and exhale through the mouth, so that your inhalations and exhalations are the same length of time, approximately one second each. Visualize the breath moving in a circle, up the back of the spine and down the front of the spine. This circular rhythm will help your energy circulate and increase. Focus on the inhalation and drawing in energy rather than on the exhalation.
Bring your awareness fully to the breath and maintain your focus there to allow your mind to quiet. This can bring you into a deeply peaceful and blissful state. The fast, deep, circular and connected breath (no pause after the inhalation or exhalation) used in conscious breathing is designed to reveal obstacles, limitations and resistance to the full experience of life. The strong inhalations help to awaken the whole body, increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream and circulating more energy. The inhalation also helps draw in the present moment. The exhalation offers an opportunity to release the past and any barriers in our lives, so that we can continue on our paths less encumbered. The exhalation also detoxifies the body and releases pent-up tension. Afterward, the mind is clear, calm and focused.
Conscious, connected breathing is similar to the physiology of hyperventilation, which means “over breathing.” During conscious, connected breathing we are breathing much deeper than we do in our regular lives. In fact, we might breathe as intensely as we would when we run. But in conscious, connected breathing, we are taking in a steady stream of oxygen, more than we likely have in a long while. In running and in hyperventilating, carbon dioxide leaves the body too quickly, leaving us anxious and scared.
Conscious, connected breathing is surprisingly challenging for most people because the depth of the breath takes us out of our comfort zones. It brings us to a place where we’re more present and less stoic, where our mind and our ego can take a back seat. That initially brings us to a place of vulnerability that later becomes empowering and freeing. But in order to get there, we’ve got to step out of our comfort zones and that can be challenging. Our internal defenses appear in an attempt to stop the deep, circular, fast-paced rhythm of conscious, connected breathing. These show up primarily by slowing down and going to sleep. People also yawn, fidget and experience a dry throat or aches and pains, similar to the irritations we discover in our bodies during meditation. Because these avoidance tactics are difficult to stop, it is recommended to breathe with a breathing practitioner in a series of ten or more sessions before embarking on it alone.
What typically happens in conscious, connected breathing is that our ego and its resistance comes to the forefront. We reach a point where the breathing gets hard and we don’t want to continue. Similar to running a marathon, we are “hitting a wall.”
This resistance essentially occurs because our ego is quieting and being forced to take a back seat. With every connected breath, we connect more to universal energy and less to the ego’s belief that it is separate. Every conscious, connected breath brings you to a place where you are connected with universal energy — feeling relaxed, happy, free, fulfilled, empowered and energized. Every time you arrive there, allow yourself the opportunity to stay a little longer. Call this feeling back at every opportunity.
Like physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga or massage, conscious, connected breathing is a process. One session builds on the next session. We don’t expect to take one yoga class and be set for life. Although great things can happen in one session, even greater things happen throughout the journey. And so it is with breathing. It’s unlikely that one session will solve all of our problems in life so that we’ll be living a superhero existence.
It’s a continual process.
Similar to an oil change for a car, conscious, connected breathing sessions are an “oil change” for the body, mind and spirit. Breathing sessions clear out hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, obstacles and open us up to new possibilities. They can be mind-blowing, life-changing experiences or simply give us a peek into a blind spot in our lives that need some tending. As we progress on this path, we reap the benefits of this healing, insightful process.