“What can we do but keep on breathing in and out, modest and willing, and in our places? ” ~ Mary Oliver
Three Part Breathing Practice:
Even though the gift of breathing is an involuntary act, we can focus the way that we breathe. When we slow the rhythm of our breath down by drawing in a fully relaxed inhalation and a slow, extended exhalation, the body /mind connection begins to relax the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight activation and helps bring our Nervous System into a more balanced state of rest and digest.
“Life is in the breath. One who half breathes, half lives.” ~ Chinese proverb
Ground your body by lying on your back, knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Or you may choose to lower your legs over a rolled up blanket or bolster. Surrender into gravity by releasing the weight of your body and relaxing into the support of the Earth element. Take note of any physical sensations without the desire to change or judge it. Just hold space for whatever may be arising.
Then begin to observe the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath. If you find yourself distracted by the activity of your mind, harness your awareness on the coming and going of air through your nostrils. Notice where you feel the breath moving and where you don’t.
Next, place your hands on your belly below the navel center. As if smelling a fragrant flower, draw the air in through the nostrils down into the lower abdomen. Allow the belly region to fill up in all directions with breath, like a balloon. This will also nourish the Kidneys and Adrenals which are a storehouse for vital energy. As you exhale, slowly extend the length of your breath as your navel draws toward your spine. This will help to eliminate the waste. Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
Imagine you are a fish. Continue to draw in your breath as in Part One, but now guide the breath a little more into your rib cage. Breathing into the back, side and front ribs as if they were the gills of a fish. Penetrating, massaging the deep layered muscles and internal organs underlying the rib cage. As you exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs move down and in, and then the from the belly as the navel drawls back toward the spine. Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
Breathe into your upper chest. Adding onto Part One and Part Two as seamlessly as you can, continue to draw a little more breath up into the core of your heart center as well as your collarbones, causing the area around your heart to expand in all directions. Invite the breath to break down any barriers between you and your feeling center. Notice if the shoulders, throat, jaw, tongue, eyes begin to contract. If so, soften these areas and return to your natural breath until you are ready to try again. On the exhale, let the breath leave the upper chest without collapsing the chest, then the rib cage and lastly the lower abdomen as the navel draws back to the spine. Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
Once you have practiced each part as described, you can begin to allow the three parts of the breath to flow like a serene, smooth river without any controlled pauses. Continue at your own pace for up to 10 breaths.
Once you have completed the integration of all three parts, remain lying on the floor. If your legs were bent, feel free to lower your legs onto the ground. Release any manipulation of breath and allow the breath (Life Force) to breathe you now. Melting any muscular tension and mental afflictions, the body lies as still as a corpse. This is known in Yoga as Savasana (little death). Stay here for at least 3 minutes before mindfully coming up and out of your practice with a sense of vitality and gratitude.
As you continue to practice this Three Part Breathing exercise, feel free to sit upright in a comfortable crossed-leg position. If you need extra support, sit on a blanket or in a chair, even at the wall. It’s important to ‘keep your spine elegant’ while the body remains relaxed. Eventually? You will be able to integrate this breath awareness into your lifestyle…like when your car stops at a red light or standing in line at the grocery store. Perhaps when you feel yourself about to say something you know you shouldn’t. The beauty of our breath is that we can choose to embrace it’s inspiration at anytime or become one with it anywhere.
In loving breath,