5 Keys to Unlock the Power of Your Breath

    — By Kevin D. Schoeninger


    Click the PLAY button to hear an audio message from Matt!

    In this brief article, I’ll highlight the key points from the Spiritual Growth Monthly Mind-Body Practice Series on the Power of Your Breath. More details are available in the Weekly Messages on the SGM site.

    Unless you have an illness or impairment that affects your breathing, you most likely take breathing for granted. You probably give it little thought. Breathing is a function of the autonomic nervous system. In other words, your body takes care of breathing for you, without you having to pay attention. If breathing happens on its own, what’s the big deal about it? Wouldn’t you be better served focusing on more pressing needs, on issues that really demand your attention?

    Why is attention to breathing important? Why do some consider it the key to health as well as the doorway to the sacred and the path to spiritual growth? In this article, we’ll touch on the answer to those questions and reveal 5 Keys to Unlock the Power of Breath in your life.

    First and foremost, breathing is the basis of your physical life here in this world. Your official entry into this life is your first breath out of the womb and your exit is signaled by your last breath. Breathing serves the obvious function of bringing oxygen into your body and releasing carbon dioxide. Yet breathing serves several other important functions.

    Breathing regulates the synergy between the two sides of your autonomic nervous system, your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, or your action and recovery modes, respectively. When you inhale your sympathetic nervous system is activated, when you exhale your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. Having a balance between these two aspects of your autonomic nervous system is crucial to physiological balance and health.

    In addition to the nervous system effects of correct breathing, there is a wealth of other positive effects of breathing well. The first, of course, is that when you breathe fully you receive maximal oxygen with minimum energy output. You more fully inflate the lungs and extract the most oxygen and energy from each breath.

    The muscular action of breathing fully also massages the internal organs and enhances digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The action of breathing regulates your heart rate and blood pressure and communicates this information throughout your system as a whole. For these and other reasons, breathing is at the basis of your physical life and how you breathe governs the effectiveness of most every physiological function.

    When your breathing is restricted or less-than-optimal it affects your health and well-being in profound ways. According to Stephen Elliot in The New Science of Breath p. 7, poor breathing habits contributes to any of the following: “elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, headache, temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), general muscle tension, pain, anxiety, worry, digestive problems, incessant mental chatter, attention deficiency (inability to concentrate), a lack of energy, and sleeping problems.”

    If breathing is so important and your body does it for you automatically, what has gone wrong here? Where has your body gone off track? Why isn’t it doing its job of breathing fully and correctly?

    The simple answer is that you have given your body too much to do and it is doing its best to keep up with your demands. When your system is overloaded and stressed, this affects the way that you breathe. When you can guide your breath back to an optimal breathing pattern, you reverse the effects of stress and tap into the deeper powers of your breath. So here are…

    The 4 Keys To Optimal Breathing

    1. Nostril Breathe (breathe in and out through your nostrils)

    2. Take Complete Breaths (fully inflate your lungs from bottom to top)

    3. Allow and Follow, Don’t Try and Force your Breathing

    4. Practice Coherent Breathing (follow a rhythm of equal inhalation and exhalation as timed with your heart-rate)

    Nostril Breathing purifies and warms the air; Complete Breathing opens up your full lung capacity and extracts the most oxygen and energy from each breath; Allowing and Following keeps you in a state of relaxation and least effort; and Coherent Breathing integrates your breathing with your heart rhythm and brainwaves, so that your system functions as a integrated whole.

    Detailed instructions on these four keys can be found on the Spiritual Growth Monthly website: http://www.spiritualgrowthmonthly.com

    Once you have mastered these four breathing keys you can put your Complete Coherent Breath to work for you. What can such optimal breathing do for you? In a nutshell, you can use Complete Coherent Breathing to

  • release tension and stress,

  • to dissolve pain and negative emotion,

  • to open up your subtle energy system,

  • to facilitate healing, and

  • to tap your spiritual potential.

  • A fifth key is what enables you to do all these things.

    Key #5: Guiding Your Breath: Use your mind to gently lead your breath wherever you focus your attention and with whatever intention you hold.

    In Qigong, we say “allow the mind to lead the qi” (life energy). Breath, in this case, is analogous to life energy. The breath contains life energy, and as you imagine leading the breath through your body, you are activating, opening, and developing your subtle energy system. Why is this important? It’s important because your subtle energy system is the basis of your life, it is the blueprint for your health and well-being, and the doorway to your highest spiritual development.

    So, with Key #5, you imagine your breath as life energy, and you imagine that you can lead your life energy anywhere that you focus your attention and to whatever purpose or intention that you hold in your mind.

    Imagine that your body is a bio-energetic information system. When there is a free flow of information and open lines of communication throughout your body, you are healthy and happy. When the lines of communication are disrupted, blocked, or impeded in any way, you experience inner conflict, negative emotion, or ill health.

    Imagine that the bio-information system of your body registers and stores every event in your life experience and its outcome on an energetic and a cellular level. Events that had pleasant outcomes create pleasurable bio-energetic pathways in which energetic information flows freely.

    Events that are negative, traumatic, and not integrated or resolved are stored as points of tension in your energetic system. These unresolved negative events impede energy flow until they are cleared or resolved on an energetic level. You will find that you can use the signs of tension, negativity, or illness in your body to recognize poor bio-energetic information flow, to release or resolve those experiences, and to open or clear your energy.

    When you imagine your breath as life energy, it sensitizes you to the movement of bio-energetic information in your body and gives you a way to clear your inner energetic space. The more open and clear your inner space becomes, the more clearly you will sense inner guidance as it arises in that space.

    This reminds us of the importance of daily practice. It is important to have a daily practice of clearing our inner space so that we establish a baseline of relaxed, clear awareness from which we can live.

    You can use your breath as a doorway to access and develop your inner power: your ability to feel what is good and right for you and those around you here and now and your ability to actualize those possibilities without interference.

    At Spiritual Growth Monthly we are here to support your daily practice so that you can claim the life you are meant to live. We provide insights, practice tools, and group coaching support to assist you on your unique spiritual path.

    To discover the exact details of how to tap the power of breath and the specific practices that you can use to realize your greater potential, we would love to have you join our community of practice.

    You can check us out at: http://www.spiritualgrowthmonthly.com

      9 Responses to “5 Keys to Unlock the Power of Your Breath”

      1. Thank you for supplying this information on
        breathing on your fine blog.
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      2. Deepak says:

        In India we call this pranayam, and is practiced from a very early age. Its effects are absolutely positive. I fully agree that more attention should be paid to a matter of such importance..

      3. Trish says:

        I really enjoyed this blog and it gave me some excellent guidelines on breathing practice. As I have MS I try and focus on doing what I can. I have chosen breathing as one of the areas as I know how important it is and also because my automatic breathing has stopped in the past (due to MS) leaving me with much shallower breathing which I am working on improving. I wanted to learn more and to discover the exact details of how to tap the power of breath and the specific practices that I could can use however I do not feel that I am ready yet to join the community. Is there any way I could start with this first?

      4. Maryleen says:

        Hi Matt

        How special to hear you recite this poem.

        I was brought up on it – both my parents recited it and parts of it to me often.

        I think of it often and recite part of it in my head but haven’t heard anyone else recite it for years.

        What memories you have evoked!

        It is a treasure.

        It amazes me how many things are ‘timeless’.

        Thank you so much, from my overflowing heart.

        Maryleen

      5. Estee says:

        Great article! It’s good to see others focusing on this all-important topic. I know that it’s easy to slide into the slump posture and thereby lose the ability to deep-breath. The breath affects our physical energy, and our spiritual energy as well. As a medical intuitive I see the effects of healthy breathing patterns throughout the whole body.

      6. Hi all,

        Thank you Spiritual Growth Monthly for mentioning Coherent Breathing in your newsletter. Since the writing of The New Science of Breath, much has been learned by myself and colleagues regarding Coherent Breathing, including how it works and how it is best applied. We document this in the recently published work Coherent Breathing – The Definitive Method.

        In a nutshell, we now know that Coherent Breathing elicits a dramatic increase in blood flow, such that each time we inhale, about 700 ml of blood is siphoned through the right heart into the lungs. Each time we exhale, about 700 ml of blood is ejected from the lungs into the left heart and into the arterial tree. This phenomenon is referred to as the respiratory arterial pressure wave. Note that the muscular action of the diaphragm is the motive force for this wave action. And in this way, when the diaphragm is moving the blood, the heart and vascular system relax.

        With this relaxation, the autonomic nervous system is allowed to return to a normal idle state, i.e. what we call “real homeostasis”. In real homeostasis, the body mind knows how to care for itself, and consequently we see dramatic improvements in health, well-being, and performance. We are confident that these change translate over time into gains in healthful longevity.

        My pleasure to contribute to your journal and thanks again for your interest in Coherent Breathing,

        Regards,

        Stephen Elliott

      7. Cathy says:

        Matt,
        Thx for all the inspirational info here. I was wondering if you sell any meditations to deal with physical pain? I’m very interested in this. Thank you.

      8. Srinivasan MN says:

        I AM VERY HAPPY NOW

      9. Srinivasan MN says:

        NOW I GOT A SUPPORT MY BELIEVINGS THROUGH YOUR ARTICLE.

        THANK YOU VERY MUCH DEAR.

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