Introduction to Breathing Script

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1 1 Introduction to Breathing Script About fifteen minutes. The breath is a remarkably powerful mind-body connection, and in this video I shall be showing some different styles of breathing that can be used for managing mood, feeling calmer, feeling stronger, focussing better at study and a whole range of purposes. Obviously all of us breathe all the time, everyday, but we don t usually stop to pay it much attention. I have had a particular interest in it over many years as a psychologist and as a yoga teacher. What happens is that people s breathing changes whenever their emotional state changes. Usually we are not aware of that at all, it just happens unconsciously, but if we are aware of it we can use it the other way around, that changing the way we are breathing can have an impact on the sort of emotions we are feeling, especially for calming if you are feeling anxious, for letting go of stress, but also in other ways as well. So as you are watching this just take a deep breath. Notice where the breath seems to go whether it goes high in the chest, in the middle of the chest or lower, more to the front or the back of your body. Just take a couple of breaths and notice. What tends to happen for most people, unless they have done lots of yoga or trained in opera singing, is that they tend to breathe rather high (hand on upper chest). It s as if we know in our heads that our lungs are up here (hand on upper chest), so we (taking high breath, through mouth) breathe up here, like that. If you watch little kids, two or three year olds, lying down relaxing or going off to sleep, what moves when they breathe is their belly, and then somewhere along the line as we grow up, there is a shift in that movement of breathing, from the belly to the upper chest. Now in different emotional states people s breathing tends to change quite dramatically, even if they are not aware of it. When people are anxious they tend to breathe quite high (hand up high on chest), quite short and gaspy (demonstrates), a bit like that, then they tend to hold the breath in, without breathing out very much, and then to breathe in a bit like that again (demonstrates), and if you breathe like that for a few minutes (demonstrating), even if you were calm to start with, you will make yourself feel quite on edge. If people are feeling really panicky they will sometimes breathe high and fast up here, hyperventilating (demonstrates, high and fast through mouth), and if you do that for a little while you start to really spin out. Sometimes if people are really stressed, their breathing really clamps down. It is as if they are playing possum, like an evolutionary thing that I don t want the predator to see me. So if you look at their chest or belly, it is as if nothing is moving, and hardly any breath is going in or out. People with major stress, such as after a trauma, sometimes get stuck in this, as if they are frozen.

2 2 If someone is very sad or depressed it can be quite different. Often you find there is a big sigh out (demonstrates), and then there is a long pause before they breathe in again (demonstrates). So it seems like they are breathing out even more than they are breathing in, and then they are holding the breath out, (demonstrates), and if you do that for a few minutes, holding your breath out between the exhale and the inhale, you ll really flatten your energy. It might not make you fully depressed but it will really lower your energy right down. So what we are wanting to do today with the breathing is to be able to breathe deep and to the belly, to this point just sort of below and behind the navel, in the middle of the body at about the centre of gravity. This is a really important point in all sorts of Eastern traditions: yoga, tai chi kung, most of the martial arts. It has different names in the different traditions. Hara is the name that has made its way most to the West, but in all these different traditions it is a major energy centre. In yoga it is said that from that point 64,000 energy channels flow out to the rest of the body, so it is very central and very centring to breathe there. Now in Western medicine none of that energy stuff is acknowledged at all, but breathing as if you are breathing to that point engages the diaphragm and draws the air deep into the lungs. Your breathing can be controlled by three things: your diaphragm, the big sheet of muscle that goes across here (demonstrates) under your ribs; the rib muscles, between the ribs themselves, the intercostals (hands fingers spread over ribs, and demonstration breath in); and the top bit widening and opening up here (fingers there) they call clavicular breathing after the collarbones (demonstration breath in), so you can breathe a bit up high. But what we are wanting to do is to be able to breathe low and deep, to this belly point, and if people are anxious this is really the key breath, because if people are anxious, as I mentioned, they tend to take the breath up high (demonstrates). So what we are wanting is for you to put your thumb on your navel, your belly-button, so the flat of the hand is really quite low, and just like an old-fashioned blacksmith s bellows (demonstrates with hands) you want breathing in for the belly to go out and breathing out for the belly to go in, (repeats) breathing in belly goes out, breathing out belly goes in. So we ll just practice that (Begins to slowly breathe in an out using gentle ujjayi to make the sound audible and soothing, then with the movement) breathing in belly goes out, and really using the muscles of the abdomen, breathing out belly goes in, squeezing in, (pause so commentary with breathing) breathing in belly goes out, and the work is on the exhale, as you breathe out the sides and back pull in a bit as well, but of course the belly can move more... (pausing again so as to allow the breath), so you are trying to get that feeling of pulling the air quite deep. Then relaxing. Now as you practice this some of you might find that you get a little light-headed or dizzy, so if that happens just stop. It s not going to hurt you if that happens, but it just means you are getting a bit more air in than you are used to. So if that happens, just stop and let the breathing go back to its own rhythm for a while.

3 3 Now in some stronger yoga practices or in something like karate people sometimes breathe very strongly here. If you breathe very strongly here it tends to pump up your energy but keep you very centred. So I ll just do a couple to demonstrate then you can join me. (demonstrates) Now that will pump your energy but keep you very centred and is very different to breathing fast up here (hand high on chest, demonstrates), when people do that they tend to spin right out. So we ll just do a couple, just to practice really using the abs, using these muscles to really support the diaphragm. (demonstrates a few breaths) really squeezing in those muscles on the exhale even the pelvic muscles pull in and up a little. And relaxing. So that s mostly to get used to the feeling of it. You can practice it if you want to if you wanted to feel strong, if you wanted to pump up your energy to face a challenge. But what we are going to do now is to do a few more, just slowing it right down, because the slower the breath is the more calming it is. There are a few things that make the breath calming if someone is anxious. First of all, if someone is anxious they are probably going to be thinking anxious thoughts oh my God, something s going to go wrong, or I m going to make a mess of something or whatever, so any form of slow deep breathing will interrupt the anxious thoughts, and refocusses into body awareness, changes modes, so it helps to interrupt them. Secondly breathing low and deep to the belly has a calming effect as opposed to breathing up here (hand on upper chest), it has a physiological effect, and thirdly the slower you breathe the more calming it is, so we re just going to practice a few slow deep breaths. So breathing in, two, three, four and breathing out squeezing the belly in two, three, four, breathing in belly goes out two, three, four and breathing out belly goes in two, three, four, and keeping on at that pace (demonstrating). (on the exhale) breathing out the sides and back pull in as well and even the pelvic muscles pull in and up a little n the exhale. (gently in time with the breathing) breathing in the belly goes out and breathing out squeezing the belly in, (another breath in and out then) and breathing in again. Now breathing like that most people will find that, if say you had a scale of nought to ten where nought was totally relaxed and ten was totally stressed out, that say if you were a seven on the scale even a few slow deep breaths like that will just crank it down a couple of notches, to a five or a four. It might not make you fully relaxed in an anxious situation but it will definitely take the edge off it. So practicing this breath is very useful for managing anxiety I teach it to people who have had car crashes and are afraid of getting back in the car, to use the breath, or people afraid of public speaking to quietly take a few slow deep breaths before they have to get up and talk. It s a very good way to take the edge off things. So for the breath to be calming, focussing on deep and slow. When you practice try to slow is down until you breathe in for about five seconds and out for about five seconds. In some yoga people will practice breathing in for twenty or even thirty seconds, and breathing out for twenty or thirty seconds and when you do that it becomes very meditative, and even a single breath can produce a deep meditation state, but for our purposes five seconds is long enough for the breath to have the calming effect.

4 4 Two other things about the breath being calming is that in this breath we are not holding the breath. When people are anxious they tend to (breathes in holds the breath) hold the breath up high and that keeps the tension locked in there, stuck in that same emotional state. Also the in and out breath are about the same length. It is subtle but if the inhale is longer it tends to raise your energy, if the outbreath is longer it tends to lower your energy, so if you re anxious you could have a longer exhale but I find it s best to have the inhale and exhale the same length is nice and simple. So they are the main things about the breath being relaxing. The next thing is doing the full breath, sometimes called the full yoga breath, so this is also calming and centring but is more energising. It is good breath for general health and vitality, also very good before studying or in a break from study, to refocus, energize and boost concentration. Also good for lifting mood if you are feeling a bit flat or down. So this breath begins at the base, breathing to the belly like the last breath, so it draws the breath deep and down, then we begin to fill up the middle chest, opening the ribs and then fill the upper chest. So you can join me breathing in the belly goes out, then breathing to the middle (hands over ribs) and then to the upper (pointing fingers high on chest), then breathing out, squeezing in the upper, then the middle pulling the ribs in, then the lower squeezing the belly in, and even the pelvic muscles pull in and up. Then breathing in to the lower (hands over lower, then middle, then upper), then middle, then upper, then breathing out from the upper, the middle and the lower, and again (demonstrating with no words, two further rounds), then one more in, finishing on the inhale. Then relaxing. So what you find with that is that it is still very calming, very centring, but a nice one to use if you are also wanting to raise your energy a bit more. So if you are studying and want a break for a few minutes, just kick back from the desk, making sure that the spine is straight, and breathing. It has that nice balance of being calming but also lifting your energy. As you practice it you can be aware of not just expanding to the front of the body but filling up through the centre of the body expanding to the back and sides as well. This full breath is also good if you have been feeling flat or depressed. As you fill the middle and upper chest it is as if the heart is gently hugged, and you ll find your mood lift a little. Also if you are wanting to raise your mood you can gently hold the breath briefly at the end of the inhale, before breathing out. Just be gentle, don t force anything, and just hold with the lungs filled, after the inhale, don t pause after the exhale. So we have done a couple of breaths today, the key one to practice is the belly one and it is good to practice that a few times a day. You can do it lying down at night before you go to sleep, just lying on your back with your hand on your belly, breathing in the hand goes up, breathing out the hand goes down. If you practice it, it does two things. One is that it draws the air deeper, and when I have worked with people who are very tense it makes a big difference as just their resting levels of tension get much lower. For some people who have suffered traumas their breath really gets frozen, and learning to breath deeper like this makes a huge difference. The second thing is that practicing just makes it very available to use this breath in an anxious situation, you ve got to breathe anyway, so you can stop, take

5 5 a couple of deep breaths to the belly and take the edge off any anxiety or tension. When you practice it is very helpful to have your hand there, because most people find to start with they do the opposite, but of course once you are used to it you don t have to have your hand there so no one will notice if you are doing it. The other is the full breath for calming, centring, energising and lifting mood, just remembering to begin and end with the breathing to the belly.

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