What does breath mean to you?
Is it just an automatic function of your body?
If you want to dissect life from a cold and purely scientific perspective, you can reduce your breath to this. But what really happens in your lungs is a miracle!
Forget all your knowledge about breath and just feel it for a while.
Have you ever been fully present in your breath?
Feel the life flowing through your lungs, pumping in your heart, navigating through your whole body.
Take some deep breaths, acknowledging that you’re alive.
You are immersed in a gaseous compound called AIR. You’re completely dependent on it for your existence. This invisible substance flowing through your nose is the most basic source of energy that keeps you alive. All of this oxygen, this primary element of life, is abundant. You are immersed, being surrounded and embraced by it.
Open your heart to all this flow of life. Breathe with gratitude. Feel the abundance of life around and within you.
Can you turn your breath into a prayer? Forget your gods, forget your words, and make it very simple, just between your lungs and the air. Can you create a silent prayer from your inhalation, your exhalation, and your reverence and gratitude for life? Can you pray with your lungs?
Sorry if my words sound unusual for you. I remember the first time I learned about my breath from a spiritual perspective. It was so simple and clear to the point of being awkward, considering the complicated and far-fetched nature of my mind.
My first spiritual education was with the Catholic Church, where I learned about an invisible God above the sky and memorized prayers full of beautiful words to worship him. Years later, when I had my first contact with shamanism, I was invited to pray with no words to no god. I was invited to turn my breath into a prayer to celebrate life.
Shamanism is such a direct spiritual path! It didn’t give me intellectual constructions about the invisible framework of the Universe, nor any other sort of spiritual knowledge to clutter my mind. Instead, it taught me how to be grounded in the movement of life. And it starts with paying attention to the breath.
Between your first inhalation and your final breath you’ll breathe around one billion times, you probably don’t pay too much attention to it. We usually just let our body breathe and completely forget about it.
And this is one of our biggest mistakes.
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Your breath doesn’t only move through your lungs. The air you breathe travels through your blood to each of your cells. And you have around 10 trillion of them. You depend on the energy created by your breath for every one of your biological functions.
Your breath has a direct connection to your sleep, digestion, heart, muscles, nervous system, brain, and mood.
While you breathe you’re producing all the energy for the functioning of your body and psyche. The quality of this energy doesn’t depend only on the quality of the air. It depends much more on how you breathe.
That’s why many spiritual traditions pay so much attention to the breath. Because our breath is the key not only for purifying and empowering our energy but also for channeling it. Through our breath, we can develop whatever we want in our lives, from spiritual enlightenment to the power for achieving our most material goals.
I started studying breathwork 28 years ago and since then I haven’t stopped learning. What I’ve learned has completely changed my life. I was able to heal my body and mind, balance my emotions, and develop a lot of my personal power, creativity, and awareness.
From my experience, I’ve put together six keys that can shift your relationship with your breath and raise your life experience to a new level.
1) Your breath: your first relationship with life
You exist within a bigger system called Gaia. You are immersed in the planet’s atmosphere. You can’t exist by yourself.
You are completely dependent on the oxygen produced by the plants who live on this planet.
Every time you inhale you are bringing life from the outside world to your inner atmosphere.
And upon your exhalation, you give back to nature the carbon you produce in your cells. This same carbon will be inhaled by the plants around you.
We human beings fight a lot for freedom and independence. Although it’s essential that we look towards our interdependency, too. This is how we can find our place and purpose in the chain of life.
Our species became trapped inside our intellectual constructions. We spend most of our time ruminating thoughts inside our heads, disconnected from the life pulsing in our body. Such disconnection led us to a collective state of emptiness, frustration, and lack of purpose. We try to find elaborated solutions to these feelings: success, material possessions, knowledge, relationships, etc.
The path to fulfillment is a much simpler one:
You simply must be present where life is happening.
Take at least five minutes per day to be fully present in your breath. Feel your breath as a relationship. Breathe with gratitude.
Inhale, thankful for the life you’re bringing in. Feel this life coming from inside, touching your innermost depths.
And exhale, bringing your energy from your depths and pouring it in the atmosphere. Bring your love and gratitude to the air you exhale.
Breathing means receiving from nature and giving back to nature. It’s a relationship.
A relationship with life itself. Through this relationship, you exist.
Feel, cultivate, and give yourself to this relationship. This will make you feel alive and fulfilled.
2) Breath and emotions
There’s a profound connection between your breath and your emotions.
When you are angry, for example, the tension in your stomach, chest, jaws, and neck contracts and densifies your breath. When stressed or anxious, you breathe shorter, using only the upper side of your lungs. In the face of panic or shock, you may experience a spasm and deep contraction of your respiratory muscles. When you are euphoric, your breath accelerates close to hyper-ventilation.
There’s a respiratory pattern for each emotion you feel, and we can take two conclusions from this. First, the way you breathe affects your emotions, and second, your emotions affect the way you breathe.
If you carry unresolved emotions like anger, sadness, or resentment for too long in your body, these feelings will shape the way you breathe. They will create permanent tensions in your respiratory system, and it will have a negative effect on your health.
Considering the stressful nature of modern life, we’re constantly subjected to tensions that can crystalize negative patterns in our breath system, decreasing our vitality and poisoning our body.
Fortunately, the connection between emotion and breath works both ways. Breathing properly, you can dissolve the emotions stuck in your body and find a healthy and balanced flow for your energy.
To achieve this you simply start paying attention to your breath, observing how it behaves in different emotional situations.
Whenever you find yourself in a state of peace and bliss, observe your breath. Observe the rhythm, how the air flows, the level of tension in your muscles, how deep the air goes, and which path it takes. Learn it.
Whenever you feel trapped in your anxiety, stress, or anger, bring this breath you’ve learned. You will need only 5 minutes breathing properly to break through it and regain your balance.
Some advanced breath practices can clean your breath system from the old emotions and traumatic patterns that got stuck there. Such cleaning can give a reboot to your breath system and in your emotions, releasing all the heaviness of your past and opening the doors for a much more joyful experience of life.
I highly recommend that you give yourself the opportunity for recycling the emotional energy around your breath system. There are many practices, modern and ancient, that can help you with this process.
Here you have a highly recommended audio meditation to recycle your emotional energy. You can start rebooting your breath system now, by clicking the link below:
Breath Meditation: Rebooting your Breath System
3) Breath and consciousness
We live most of our lives trapped in our minds. Our never-ending thoughts are constantly flooding our minds and taking us to the realm of the illusory. We can easily find ourselves in some situation of our past, trying to solve some possible problems in our future, or anywhere else in the world of our daydreams. But we rarely find ourselves fully present in the here and now.
Your thoughts have vibrations; frequencies of energy produced by your brain. You can think of your mind as the valve of a pressure cooker. You, with all your emotions and struggles, are the pressure cooker. The steam released by the valve is your thoughts.
For sure you can focus your thoughts, and many constructive things can come from it. But 90% of your thoughts are just garbage. They are just the way your brain has found to release your unequalized energy to keep your systemic balance.
Whenever you get lost in your thoughts and disconnected from your body, your consciousness is fragmented and you are only half-present, like a walking dead.
If you really want to enjoy your life, it’s essential that you start breaking through the hypnotic state of your thinking mind to develop your presence, grounding your consciousness in the movement of life.
What is happening in your lungs is much more solid and real than what happens in your mind.
Your breath is the sanctuary where you can meet your consciousness.
In this place, in your breath, you can really feel yourself. Not your concepts about yourself, nor even your transitory emotions, but your true essence, the pure particle of consciousness you are.
Being present in your breath is the most effective and powerful meditation you can ever practice. It can bring you back to your core and empower your state of presence. It can let you experience your innermost self.
4) The Power of your lungs
How can you explain the power of your breath? What’s the mystery that resides in your lungs?
There’s a physiological characteristic of our lungs that can explain part of it. Let’s examine the connection between your breath and your nervous system to understand it.
The movement of your organs is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. This section of your nervous system is responsible for the involuntary movements of your body. You cannot command the frequency of your heartbeat, the digestion in your stomach, nor the secretions of your glands.
The control you have over your body happens thanks to your somatic nervous system. It’s responsible for all your voluntary movements.
Your lungs are the point of intersection between these two pieces of your nervous system. They are controlled at once by the autonomic and by the somatic nervous system. Your breath happens involuntarily, although differently than what happens with the movements of the other organs of your body as you can consciously interfere and control your lungs.
Your lungs are the place where these two pieces of the nervous system meet. They are the place where your consciousness can access the mysteries of your unconscious worlds.
That’s why your breath can open so many doors for your self-development. Because it’s a door for direct communication between your consciousness and the hermetic worlds which reside underneath it.
Through your breath, you can open the doors of your subconscious, unlocking repressed memories, dissolving traumas, and balancing your most conflicted emotions.
Through your breath, you can go even deeper, to places beyond the realm of your intellect. You can awaken, for example, ancient memories kept in your DNA.
You can use your breath to awaken the latent potential inside of you; things like your creativity, memory, and will power.
And through your breath, you can also communicate with all your organs and with every part of your body to align and potentialize them.
We tend to think of ourselves as the masters of our bodies. We believe our body is a flesh machine that belongs to us. I invite you to think of your lungs as a living being which has its own consciousness and purpose.
Your lungs are not only the place of communication between the conscious and subconscious. It’s also the point of intersection between you and the cosmos. Through them, the universal consciousness gets inside your body to animate your being.
In shamanism, we have an eagle as a metaphor for our lungs. The flapping of the eagle’s wings is the movement of our breath. You can play with your imagination when you meditate on your breath. You can imagine your lungs as an eagle.
Relax, surrender to your breath, and let your eagle-lungs fly you to the subtle dimensions of the infinite.
5) Channeling your breath
Your breath can carry consciousness, life, and energy to every part of your body and to every aspect of your psyche.
You can channel this power to heal, empower, and develop your body and mind.
Each part of your body holds physiological and psychic functions. Your stomach, for example, has the biological function of digesting food. But it also has the psychic function of turning your experiences into knowledge and personal power.
Focusing your breath on your stomach you can empower both your digestion and the development of your knowledge and personal power.
You can start exploring by yourself, breathing deeply for a few minutes, and bringing all your attention to the area of your body that you want to empower. Try to forget yourself, to become the area of your body that you want to empower. If you want to empower your liver, for example, bring all your attention there. Feel your liver; imagine it breathing. Forget yourself in order to become your breathing liver.
You can do a lot by channeling your breath. Knowing the right breath techniques, you can empower your health and vitality, and unlock all your inner potential.
For learning and practicing these techniques, I strongly recommend the online workshop Ybytu Shamanic Breathwork where you’ll have the full support of videos and audios guiding you the most comprehensive journey of self-development through your breath.
6) Becoming ethereal
You are a dynamic being, in constant movement and transformation. There’s nothing static in your body. It’s composed of around 7 octillion atoms, all carrying electronic movement inside. Around 300 million cells die per minute in your body, while new ones are born. Your body is processing around 37 billion chemical reactions per second while you read this article. You’re an explosion of movement!
The same happens with the universe around us. Nothing is static. The reality which surrounds us is a constant dance of atoms in constant movement and change.
Our body and psyche are configured to interpret this atomic dance and create static images of it. What we conceive as reality is just a static fragment of a much more dynamic universe.
Even our individuality, the person we are, is just a temporary configuration fated to dissolve. We’re transforming at every moment. One day our whole body will return to the earth, and each of the atoms composing it will come back to nature, to be transformed into something else.
It takes our psyche a lot of effort to sustain the illusion of ourselves and the reality around us as something solid and static. We do that unconsciously. We need such an illusion in order to be able to navigate the atomic chaos of life. But we’re not solid and static.
When you start exploring your breath, you naturally begin to detach your consciousness from the density of your static illusions, to connect with the more and subtle and dynamic elements of your inner atmosphere.
With this, you develop your flexibility, creativity, and flow. You become able to see things from multiple perspectives, finding a whole set of new possibilities for your life. You start perceiving life and all its elements as movement, and what before was fight, effort and struggle will become a dance.
You can start practicing this dance with life now, just feeling the flow of the air within your body. Each of your cells is breathing. Bring your consciousness to your inner atmosphere and embrace the flow of life you are.
Rudá Iandê is a shaman and the creator of Ybytu, the shamanic breath technique. You can access the training materials for Ybytu by joining here.