Guided Breath Exercises and Meditation
That doesn't sound very sexy, I know. Most people want to jump ahead to the "juicy" stuff. But if you don't know how to breathe properly, you won't be able to master Tantric practices.
Breath is essential to human life. When you were born, taking your first breath was a major event. It transformed you from a dependent fetus to an autonomous human being.
But what is breath and what are we actually breathing in?
In the West, we describe breath as a colorless, odorless reactive gas, and the life-supporting component is made up of two oxygen molecules. But in Taoist, Yogic, and even Cabalistic spiritual beliefs, what you are breathing in is so much more.
For example, the Latin word for breath is "Spiritus" or spirit. The Hebrew root word indicating breath is “Neshamah,” associated with the soul and describes the element that animates the body. Ruach in Hebrew means divine breath, and Kadosh means wind. Together they make "holy wind." That is actually the original meaning of "holy ghost."
In the Biblical Creation story, we read of God blowing the “breath of life” into the man of earth and dust:
The LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. — Genesis 2:7
Taoists and Yogis consider the air we breathe as "Chi" or "Prana." Chi is the vital element that animates the body, and breath is the container for Prana. Prana, Chi, Spiritus, Neshamah, and Ruach Kadosh indicate a substance that is not only a colorless, odorless gas made up of two oxygen molecules, but it is also a material that has intelligence and information issuing from an invisible but detectable source. Breath as Chi, Prana, Neshamah, etc., is a substance that enlivens, informs, and initiates existence. In this way, breath has a spiritual as well as a mundane component. Breath connects us with the infinite. Chang Tzu, the eminent scholar of the Sun Dynasty, writes: "The emergence of matter and life is the convergence and dispersion of chi…" Breath comes in and breath goes out; you are a part of the universe expanding and contracting.
Many Eastern practices incorporate the correct use of breath for health, healing, and higher consciousness. These practices use breath as an energy stream that can be directed by intention. Chi Gong is the practice of guiding Chi, and Pranayama is the practice of regulating breath to ignite expansive consciousness. Both are used to open up vital life-enhancing channels in the body.
"But we are breathing all the time," you ask. "Why do I have to stop and focus on my breathing in a conscious way?"
Lao Shi, 21st-Generation Taoist Priest of the Dragon Gate lineage, explains:
"The only way to modulate consciousness manually rather than automatically is through the breath. You can calm down the spirit through breath, and turn anxiety into bliss through breath. Chi affects all parts of the body and the mind. If your breathing is disturbed, your mind will be too. Chi modulates the spirit (mind)."
This is why all practices that focus on the breath lead to better mental, emotional, physical, and of course sexual health. If Chi is not flowing into the vital centers of your body, sexual problems manifest, such as fatigue, low sexual drive, dysfunctions in the sexual organs, insufficient sexual fluids, premature ejaculations, not to mention depression, and lack of intimacy.
Most people breathe from the chest, using only 1/3 of their lung capacity. Chest breathing is not a natural way to breathe. If you watch a baby breathe, you notice their breath is completely located in the lower belly. To cultivate youthfulness and vitality, we must breathe the same way we did when we were a baby.
How did we lose the natural breath we had as an infant? When children grow up they will inevitably have traumatic experiences. The lower belly feels these experiences and expresses them with tears. As we grow older, we stop ourselves from crying. We don't want to look like a baby. Over time this causes stress and makes the breath rise up and start to become shallow. This moves the Chi from a belly breath to a chest breath.
Remember, Chi brings vital energy to wherever it is directed. Your sexual organs are in your lower regions. The lower the breath, the more you will revitalize them and keep them healthy.
To help facilitate the process of re-learning to breathe properly, I have made a 9-minute audio recording on belly breathing. I call it "Baby's Breath," since you are returning to the natural state of breathing when you were an infant. Take a few minutes right now to listen to and practice Baby's Breath exercise. (Check out the recording below)
Now that you have re-learned belly breathing, we will move on to the practice of "Spinal Breathing."
Spinal Breathing is a healing practice that stands out above all the rest of the many breathing exercises. Spiritual teacher, Yogani, points out:
"Spinal Breathing is one of the most important practices in all yogas. It can have a positive impact on our health and well-being, and it facilitates more effective functioning in every aspect of our daily life. But more than that, Spinal Breath purifies and opens us to our ecstatic inner realms. To engage in this simple practice on a daily basis is to be on an exciting journey to inner space."
The spinal breath is effective in opening up the central channel in the nervous system. It brings balance and a deep sense of peace to the mind and chakras. It allows generative energies (Jing/Oja) to move upward to heal and energize the organs and the mind. Spinal breath allows for transformational experiences to occur during Tantra practices and meditation.
The first step in fully inhabiting our body is working with the breath. Most of us have very constricted breathing processes. These constriction imbalances the spirit (mind) and contributes to the lack of awareness we feel around our body. It doesn't allow us to fully take in our body's sensations.
In Tantra, we always work with the breath first. Spinal Breathing not only calms the mind but also opens and deepens body awareness. Regular practice of Spinal Breathing paves the way for extended ecstatic experiences and rejuvenation.
This next month try to notice your breath every chance you get, keeping the breath low in the belly. Practice the Spinal Breath at least once a day. Over time this small simple awareness performed consistently will revitalize your spirit in ways you can't imagine.