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"The pelvic bone is where the breath of life is triggered and where the breathing power of the pranic body is found. The lungs are cleansing processors, the diaphragm is an aid to that process, and it is through the spinal column that the energy flows."
One thing I can say with absolute certainty is: If I am breathing, then I am alive!
We breathe a lot, approximately 20,000 times a day, about 15 breaths per minute, in our so-called relaxed state. You might think that with all this practice we would be good at it. The problem is, for the most part, we have become well practiced at breathing incorrectly.
Learning to Breathe
Why do humans have to be taught how to breathe? Don’t we do so naturally? This is one of the biggest distinctions between humans and animals. Animals, which are born to live by their instincts and impulses, are naturally programed to breathe according to their needs and circumstances. Humans, who are born to live by intuition, need to train the breath to serve their higher nature.
And what is this higher nature that distinguishes humans from all other creatures? It is the ability to relate to our souls and experience the Generator, Organizer and Deliverer of this human life. Know thyself and you shall know God. Relating to our souls is how we come to know GOD.
In order to relate to the soul, we must become subtle, and to become subtle, we must learn to become calm. To become calm, we must learn to calm our breath. To calm the breath, we must learn to equalize the speed and velocity of the inhale with the exhale.
4 Part Breath
Through the nose sniff in 4 equal parts to a full breath. Then in 4 equal parts, using your belly, exhale out through the nose.
Continue, keeping the breaths equal, smooth and as slow as you can make them. Stop if you feel light headed, and wait a bit before trying it again.
As humans, we are as calm or nervous or angry or sad, as we are breathing. This is where our great challenge arises. It is difficult to breathe calmly when we have been paradoxical breathers for many years. Chronically shallow breathing is a challenging behavior to alter.
After many millions of shallow breaths we have become stuck in the habit of breathing patterns that reflect our unresolved emotions and feelings. These breathing habits inform our posture and ultimately become our posture.
This dilemma of the human respiratory system has been understood for thousands of years by the very wise. Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the West, in part to teach the common person how to move, breathe, think and speak consciously.
The Mechanics of Correct Breathing
To stand in the best relationship to gravity, we want the pelvis, the heart and the head aligned to allow the weight of the upper body to balance over the pelvis in order to allow that weight to transfer down through the feet and into the floor.
The pelvis is the foundation over which the heart sits, allowing the heart to support the head. Ideally, the heart rules, the navel organizes the alignment of the body, and the head is empty of useless chatter and focused on the breath—navel centered, open-hearted and empty-headed.
Simply remembering to stack the heart over the pelvis and the head over the heart can bring us into a good vertical alignment. Throughout your day, remind yourself to check on where your head and heart are in relationship to your pelvis.
Our heart sits above the diaphragm muscle, and is actually attached by fascia to the diaphragm. Due to this connection, the heart is massaged as we breathe.
To check your breathing, come sitting up with your feet placed on the floor parallel to each other about 6 inches apart.
- Notice your sitz bones touching the chair and sit with your spine as straight as you can.
- Ideally we want to learn to breathe mostly through our nose.
- The diaphragm will expand and descend on the inhale.
- For this to happen, the belly will need to relax and will expand a bit.
- On the exhale, the belly will draw back towards the spine, the lower ribs will draw together, and the diaphragm will ascend.
- Shoulders, neck, jaw and face will feel relaxed.
To get a feel for using your abdominal muscles to exhale, pucker your lips and pretend that you are trying to blow out candles without moving your torso or head forward.
- Just use your lower abdominals, and blow.
- Notice how your belly tries to pull in and up.
- Try to keep the chest and ribcage lifted.
- Now slow that breath down and try again and make the breath coming out smooth and longer.
- Then inhale slowly through the nose.
Benefits of Breathing Correctly
- Stress reduction
- Improved digestion and elimination
- Better circulation
- Weight loss
- Stronger abdominals
- Improvement of back pain
- Reduction of or relief from acid reflux
- Calmer more relaxed
- More energy
- Healthy heart
Incorrect ‘Paradoxical’ Breathing
- The shoulders will rise on the inhale and drop on the exhale.
- You may feel tension in the shoulders, neck, upper back, and face.
- The belly may feel tight all the time.
- The belly may distend/expand out on the exhale.
- The chest and rib cage fall on the exhale.
- The shoulders and upper back will feel tight.
Two examples of postural alignment due in part to incorrect breathing
Guru Prem Singh Khalsa was named 'Posture Master' by Yogi Bhajan. He is a Master Yogi and he has been practicing and teaching Yoga for over 30 years. He is certified K.R.I. Kundalini Yoga teacher trainer and an advanced Kundalini and Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. An expert on body awareness in relation to personal growth, he travels all over the world teaching the tools and rules of Divine Alignment and having your Heart Rule.
GuruPrem has had an active practice at the World famous Khalsa Medical Clinic in Beverly Hills as a structural, breath, and Yogic and Massage Therapist for over 28 years. He understands the body, and can read its patterns of tension and breathing.
The author of three books, The Heart Rules, Divine Alignment and the new Everyday Devotion, GuruPrem is also a musician, producer and composer. He has produced and arranged more than twelve albums of Mantra music, Chanting, Kirtan, Gurbani and Spiritual Songs including the new Suite: Kirtan Sohila, The Heart Rules, Tantric Har, Aquarian Sadhana, The Therapy Series with Nirinjan, and more.