Aside from the absolute need for breathing air, we can be aware of the quality of the air we are breathing, and recognize the vital nature of breathing air beyond the acquisition of oxygen alone. Additionally, we can apply techniques of breathing that enhance our wellbeing and health in a multitude of ways.
Many ancient practices, such as the various schools of yoga, qigong and tai chi incorporate many different applications of breathing exercise, and they ascribe a vital energy to the underlying absolute nature of the elements on this planet. A variety of terms have been used to describe this substance – prana, chi, élan vital, ousia and pneuma, among many others. Even though for the most part modern Western science has failed to substantiate the existence of this force, practitioners of these more ancient sciences have never failed to appreciate the presence of this phenomenon through direct human conscious experience.
It is hard to measure with current technology, and most hard-line Western scientists hold to the theory that if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. However if you would ask any one of them if they felt love for another person, they would, to the person, say that they did. They would have to admit that their love was real, but when asked if the could objectively measure that love, they would have to admit that they could not. I think you get my point.
Clean-air breathing exercises
Fact: When you consciously take a deep breath, the first thing you have to do is relax. It is not possible to take a deep breath without relaxing.
Set aside five minutes twice a day to perform relaxed deep breathing. For this exercise, stand with the legs comfortably apart with your arms at the sides, or sit in a comfortable position either on the floor or ground cross-legged, or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or ground, and with the hands on the knees. Lie down if you need to, but it is best if you do this exercise standing or sitting.
Deep breathing should be done such that the torso is filled like a bellows, with the belly filling first, then the lateral aspect of the rib cage, followed finally by the upper chest. The out breath should empty the belly first and then the chest last.
Level 1: When you breathe deeply, breathe through the nose, visualize your in breath providing vital energy to all your cells and blood, and your out breath gathering and expelling all impurities from your cells, lungs and blood.
Level 2: Take a full deep breath in through the nose, then exhale completely and forcefully through the wide-open mouth. Then relax more and let your breath “fall in and out” effortlessly through the nose, following your breath in and out with the full attention of your consciousness. As you do this, visualize the vital force of the universe surging into your body on the in breath, and surging back out again to the universe on the out breath, so that you form a pumping motion for vital force. With each subsequent breath, visualize the amount of force you pump exponentially growing in mass.