The first step in Breathwork is awareness or consciousness. We practice breath awareness—simply observing or tracking the breath. And we practice conscious breathing—controlling or directing the breath.
We practice going back and forth between these two basic aspects: doing the breathing and being breathed, directing the process and allowing the process. We practice breathing the breath and we practice letting the breath breathe us.
Relaxation is the next basic element: learning to let go of the exhale, to release it, to set it free. We consciously relax muscles in the jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, back… When letting go of the breath, we also let go of tensions or contractions.
The third basic aspect is using the inhale to charge ourselves, our system, with energy. There are countless energy breathing techniques, exercises and meditations. For example, we practice breathing fast and we practice breathing slow; we practice breathing low in the belly and we practice breathing high in the chest.
We practice breathing through the nose and we practice breathing through the mouth. We make the inhale active or we make the exhale active. We apply the principles or rhythm and balance, circles and cycles. We practice filling ourselves up completely, and emptying ourselves completely.
We practice pauses or breath holding. We use visualization or imagery. We incorporate sound and movement and we play with breathing while holding various positions and postures.
Breath Mastery requires regular daily practice. And it means bringing breath awareness and conscious breathing into ordinary activities: walking, moving, speaking, chanting, bending, stretching, lifting, listening, resting…
Here’s a very simple exercise/meditation that we used to begin our eleventh annual 21-Day Retreat here at Baja BioSana:
Close your eyes and breathe in and out. Bring all your attention to your body, to the cells of your body, to your inner world. The open your eyes and breathe in and out while focusing on what is around you, bringing all your attention to your outer world.
Close your eyes and breathe in and out while focusing all your attention on your inner world of feelings and sensations and sounds and movements.
Then open your eyes and breathe in and out while extending your attention outwardly to the sights and sounds and people and things around you.
Go back and forth like that: taking one or several breaths with eyes closed while focusing internally, and then take one or several breaths with eyes open while focusing externally.
The real secret—the essence of Breathwork—is learning to breathe energy as well as air. You can call this energy prana, chi, ki, life force, light, or spirit. Keep that in mind while you practice.