Basics – Stretch and Breath

You got a cat? Watch it when it wakes up, watch what it does.. it loves to stretch out and breath deep, often many, many times over.

See cats are clever, they know how to look after themselves, how to keep their body working to some decent level of performance, so they can jump 10 times their own height even into old age, when you struggle with a poxy couple of feet…

See cats know how to breathe, and how to stretch to make the best use of that breath. Some say there whole self satisfied, shining eye thing all comes from just knowing how to breath, combined with a shit load of self love. Still the only animal the Egyptian gods feared and the no1 choice of familiar for every Anglo Saxon witch… but right now that’s not important.

What’s important at a super basic level is…. Breathing. Now this is a big topic in spirituality, and has become the foundation of many practises based on sitting meditation, on letting the mind and the breath rest on each other, on using rhythm, on using hyperventilation, on using pressure. Even our new age friends have latched onto this, with the effective if ill advised madness of Wim Hof and his hyper ventilation routines dragging it into the spotlight.

However.. this is not what this post is about, this is a Basic advice post, it’s about breathing like you are supposed too, all the time. Like you ancestors did. And the most important part of that is NOT actually the breathing part, it’s the stretching part, because your body needs to be open, aligned for normal breathing to do its work. If you are locked up, hyper tense or totally slumped breathing at a spiritual level does not work very well, if at all. Wim Hof style forced breath, with a closed, misaligned body is a VERY bad idea, and is one of the few things in spirituality that even as a beginner will hurt you if you get it wrong.

Be clear, you take 20,000 breaths day and night on average, (up to 50,000 if you are working hard) and what small amount of either harm or good each one does kinda adds up, FAST. So to make sure you are doing the good, not the harm is a pretty fabby idea, don’t you think..?

So, this is all about normal breathing now, cause you are doing it wrong. Like Bare feet this is one of those ones to get your body to work spiritually, however it’s not actual spiritual method in itself, it just normal, everyday breathing. However, given how shit your breathing probably is, I’m going to give you a magical method to help fix it, it’s the quickest way, and you will feel good about it.

Now to be clear, there IS actual ‘spiritual breathing’, as a practise, both in the sense of a forced method which is about special techniques, breath holding such as 9 Bottle Wind, and there is the big daddy of them all.. True Breath, The Breath of Life, Womb breathing, which is breathing without breathing, learning to breathe ‘something else’.

Before you can do any of those you have to learn to breathe correctly, normally, everyday. This will go along way to fix your hyper arousal, to make your body work correctly, and help fix any biological issues you may have.

So normal breathing is in 2 parts: Identify and remove your Mistakes, and Stretch and Lift Up your body so breathing actually bloody works, in the spiritual sense of it, in the energy work sense of it.

For most people normal breathing has been replaced with Arousal breathing, and its important to be clear what that is, as when you need hyper arousal later in this journey you can recognise it, say when you actually want to do the Breath of Fire for a purpose, when you actually ‘want’ to use Chest breathing. But that is not all the time, so for now you need to just stop fucking this up..

Now, you NEED to know that normal breathing is really about is REMOVING YOUR INCORRECT HABITS, and then just breathing in a SMOOTH way. Yes, breathing in a smooth, steady, unforced, totally silent way is normal breathing. Your intelectual model for breathing is like watching gentle waves lap up and down a sandy, sunlit shore, very peacefully, in and out over and over again, to exactly the same rhythm. To do that, you will need to stop these..

The 3 classic bad habits:

  • Panting: short, quick, shallow breaths that are the no:1 way to trigger hyper arousal. This style is part of your biological make up, they are part of your Flight or Fight response. They should never be used in normal life, however 90% all all Western folks breath like this all the time. Your ability to progress on any path is virtually zero if you breath like this, you are just too hyper all the time, because your breathing is not SLOW.
  • Partial Breathing: weak breathing that does not extend all the way down or exhale all the way out. This makes you ill, makes you weak, destroys your energy levels, clouds your mind. It actually affects the health of your organs and chest to such an extent that it can be said to be a form of slow, painful suicide, because your breathing is not DEEP.
  • Rough Breathing: your breath is noisy, its loud, rough, what spiritual people call choppy, raspy. Its inconsistent, all over the place, dominated by your response to conditions, by external factors and often stimulants. You can hear yourself breath, it’s got mixed up with speaking, polluting you mood swings, activities, movements, it’s not regular, not STABLE.

So, your breathing needs to be SLOW, DEEP and STABLE. That’s it. All the time. Nice and easy then.. but you can’t do it, can you. Your mood swings and life experience is not letting you, those things are controlling your breathing, NOT YOU. You have lost control. So you need to put some focus on what Daoists call ‘Tuning’ your breath, lots of little changes and tweaks as you get better and better at this.

1st stage of doing this is just to notice your breathing and change it when you are doing it wrong. Particularly ‘listen’ to your breathing, and change it if you can hear any sound at all. Your breathing should be silent..

Then, you use the magic trick to normal breathing, a basic method that fixes numerous little issues all by itself.. Open your body up, lift up your lower back and extend your whole spine upwards as you breath in. Actually use your breath to lift up your spine starting in your lower, then mid, then upper back as in your inhale. This is what folks like me call lengthening your spine. You fill your lower stomach with air by pushing down on it as you inhale WHILST holding a light tension in your abs, holding them flat. No need to pull them in, yet, no need to visualise anything, yet, just use your breath to lift up your back, nice and gently, as you breath in, then hold it there as you exhale, smooth and slow, before doing it again. Don’t stick your chest out, your chest should be flat, you are using your breath to both push down into the pit of your belly and lift vertically upwards your chest and upper body. Got that..?

This will cause you to breathe deeper, slower, fully, and with time it will become a habit to breath this way. When you do this you will notice a lot of twinging and tension release, even strange energy like movements particularly in your lower back, and that’s a good thing. Good idea to know that breathing like this will go along way to deal with the 2 key blind spots – Fear and Sorrow, whilst developing both your will power and courage.

This is the beginning of posture work, but that is a secret for later, so not going to go on about it. Just stick to the basics for now, for some folks it makes a big difference real quick.

Lastly, don’t worry if this feels a little painful, a little stiff, strange. Depending on how messed up you are, what you have already done to yourself, you may have to go through a bit of a healing crisis. Sooner the better I’d say, if nothing else you are going to stop getting worse and maybe even learn to stand up straight and stop crouching down like a fecking rodent…

Quote to end as always.. let’s head off to ancient India this time, start to get a bit more ‘mystical’ shall we, so from maybe a thousand years ago, from the man some think invented Hatha Yoga, who knew his breathing better than most..

‘When the breath is unsteady, all is unsteady; when the breath is still; all is still. Control the breath carefully. Inhalation gives strength and a controlled body; retention gives steadiness of mind and longevity; exhalation purifies body and spirit’. – Goraksasathakam



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