Last time, we talked about the health benefits of Normal Abdominal Breathing and how to practice it. We also said that breathing this way will greatly calm your emotions over time, especially if you meditate regularly and make this kind of breathing your "default setting".
However, you can breathe abdominally and still miss the ultimate point. How so? Let's start at the beginning...
As you know, chest breathing - i.e., the unhealthy way most people in our culture breathe - is linked to negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger and the rest. But chest breathing is just a symptom of a bigger problem - captivity to your ego. This tormenting ego captivity that's so pervasive in the West is a direct result of our rationalistic culture. It's linked to a whole complex of things, including the "me against the world" mentality, the feeling that the human being is totally separate from the "hostile" world around him, which he has to dominate by force.
Even though Normal Abdominal Breathing creates better health, if you practice it without dislodging these mentalities and the emotional complexes beneath them, your gains will only be marginal. You see, the ultimate purpose of your breath work is to take you beyond ego captivity!
Ego captivity is what Hara expert Karlfried Durckheim called a "fundamental lack of trust in life itself". On a deep level, the chest breather is afraid to surrender to the natural process of breathing. He feels he has to breathe on his own or he'll cease to exist. He can't seem to let himself surrender to his breath and "be breathed" instead of breathing by force.
So here's the paradox: even though we abdominal breathers consciously watch our breath, our purpose is to surrender to it. The chest breathers, on the other hand, ignore their breath, yet can't surrender to it.
You can feel this for yourself, even doing abdominal breathing. It's an emotional / spiritual tension that manifests itself most strongly as you transition from inhaling to exhaling. It's as if something hesitates, something in you tightens up. An expert can verify these hidden emotional / spiritual tensions in his or her students by checking their posture, since almost every hidden tension is stored in the posture and knocks the posture out of alignment.
Breathing only reveals its full significance to the extent you are able to surrender to it, to life and to the greater life force within you. And you can only do that to the extent you've gone beyond the ego-centric fear for bodily welfare. So we have even more paradoxes here! Many people will say they trust in God, yet their breathing reveals something very different...
How can you go beyond your ego-captivity and enter into the real mystery of breathing? The first step is simply to keep practicing. Sit and breath properly, and pay attention to what your body reveals to you. Did you find some hidden emotional / spiritual tensions you weren't aware of? That's okay, just acknowledge them and continue. Practice and time overcome all obstacles!
For more information on mastering breathing, meditation and movement, click here.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger