|The Whole Body Breath|
Given an abiding interest in the Tao, Dennis Lewis' The Tao of Natural of Breathing easily caught my attention. These excerpts on the whole breath seemed more relevant than writings about the full yogic breath. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 63)
For the Taoist, breathing, when it is natural, helps open us to the vast scales of heaven and earth - to the cosmic alchemy that takes place when the radiations of the sun interact with the substances of the earth to produce the energies of life. It is our breath, especially our "natural" breath, that enables us to absorb and transform these energies. . . .
One of the simplest, most practical definitions of natural breathing that I've found comes from the well-known psychiatrist Alexander Lowen, who studied with Wilhelm Reich. "Natural breathing - that is, the way a child or animal breathes - involves the whole body. Not every part is actively engaged, but every part is affected to a greater or lesser degree by respiratory waves that traverse the body. When we breathe in, the wave starts deep in the abdominal cavity and flows up to the head. When we breathe out, the wave moves from head to feet." . . .
Whether we are working alone or being helped by someone with more experience, the key to natural breathing is through training our inner sensitivity, our inner awareness, to sense the various inner and outer movements of our breath as they take place. . . . It is only when we can sense these forces as they are - without any judgment or rationalization - that our breath can begin to free itself from its restrictions and engage more of the whole of ourselves. . . .
From the Taoist perspective, the main issue in natural breathing is the movement of the actual "breath energy," the chi, in the organism. The movement of this energy is the result of the polarity between inhalation (yang, active, upward) and exhalation (yin, passive, downward), between filling and emptying. . . .
At the psychological level, whole-body breathing helps us relax enough to begin to experience ourselves from the inside out, to discover an inner attention that can take in more accurate, complete impressions of the whole of ourselves and our functioning. As this occurs - as our breath expands into hitherto unconscious parts of ourselves - our attitudes and emotions start to change and our self-image begins to release its stranglehold on our lives.