Breathwork for Emotional Energy Management

By Performance & Energy

There is a lot of talk about stress and burnout these days, and so this month I’d like to focus on the role that unmanaged emotional energy plays in the stress and burnout cycle. I’d like to talk about using breathwork to prevent emotional exhaustion and to recover from it, because unmanaged emotional energy may be the biggest single cause of stress and burnout in general.

The thing about emotional exhaustion is that it’s like boiling a frog: it sneaks up on us. The problem is most people can keep up with the demands of life, they can get ahead and even excel in life, despite being emotionally dead, drained, overwhelmed or exhausted. And so, the worst thing about it is that most people seem to get by just fine in spite of the problem.

For example, therapists or healers may not be experiencing any negative thoughts or feelings due to emotional burnout. In fact, they may be getting amazing results with their clients, who are all very grateful. Yet they are no longer feeling the love or joy, or the thrill or pleasure they once derived from their work.

One of the symptoms is that they no longer naturally and automatically stop to appreciate little moments, such as enjoying the sun on their face when stepping out the door of their office or clinic after a long day or difficult client. They no longer automatically delight in the simple pleasure of being in a body and being connected to nature.
Being helpers, we tend take on other people’s emotional energy, and so we need to develop skills in handling and processing and venting this energy. And this is an issue not just for helpers and healers, but for anyone who works with people. It affects leaders of all kinds: managers, school teachers, artists, employers, musicians, coaches, and parents.

If you think about it, dealing with just one person’s emotions can be overwhelming, never mind having to deal with dozens or even hundreds of clients, students, partners or employees every day. In these kinds of relationships, we tend to give freely of our energy. And when it returns or when we take it back, it comes with other people’s energy attached to it.
My friend and teacher Leonard Orr called this phenomenon “emotional energy pollution.” And to deal with it, we need to develop a practice of clearing away emotional energy at the end of each day. And we need to be skillful at managing, transforming or venting this energy as it arises while we move along through our day.

Basically, an emotion is the activation, acceleration or intensification of energy, and so we need to be conscious and in touch with our energy, and able to contain, channel or manage our emotions if we are going to remain healthy and happy.
We can stay ahead of emotional burnout by being conscious of our own feelings and sensations while we are communicating with clients, students, authorities, loved ones, and others. We want to be using the breath to awaken heart intelligence and body intelligence, and not rely on mind intelligence alone.

We need to catch ourselves as soon as we get knocked off center and we need to use the breath to return to a place of ease and clarity, of comfort and pleasure, of passion, enthusiasm, peace and inspiration, regardless of the emotional situation. And this takes practice.
We can also stay ahead of the problem by doing some conscious breathing before a challenging, difficult or stressful event, meeting, conversation, situation, performance or presentation. Many people use “Box Breathing,” the “Triangle Breath,” or circular breathing for this.

Most of us have intuitively developed methods and strategies for dealing with negative emotional energy. For example: positive self-talk, movement and massage, visualization, guided imagery, meditation, relaxation, rest and recovery rituals, recreation and vacation activities.
As breathworkers we make use of these tried and true strategies, but more importantly we incorporate or integrate breathwork into them. We turn to our two core techniques: the conscious sigh of relief and the connected breathing rhythm. We blend our breathing practice into our meditations, visualizations, exercises and re-boot activities.

Dr. Ela Manga in her book, “Breathe: Strategizing Energy in the Age of Burnout” offers us a number of brilliant practices that she terms “recovery loops.” And I suggest that you integrate these recovery loops into your everyday life.

In my own experience, if I get emotionally upset, if I indulge in an emotional disturbance or get “frazzled,” my body, my thinking, my intuition, my creative abilities, and the strength and resilience of my immune system are immediately affected. Not only that, even my electronic devices, my computer, cell phone, and my internet signal are affected!
And so in many ways, we can no longer afford this kind of emotional static in our system. It blocks us from being in our heart. It dulls our ability to sense subtle energy. And it gradually chips away at the joy and brightness in our lives.

We can be missing the effect that it has on us… not knowing that we are missing opportunities, attracting or not attracting certain people and situations… we can take a wrong turn, we can overlook sources of pleasure and underestimate our inner resources.
Most people have two choices when it comes to emotions: suppress them or express them. A third option is to integrate them. Learn to channel that energy through the breath, which takes the stress off the body and the mind. Learn to breathe into your emotions, to relax into them, to absorb and integrate and effectively direct the energy that is unlocked by our emotions.

We use two core techniques.
The first is a simple sigh of relief. Take an inhale that is twice as big as normal, then release the exhale with a sigh while deliberately relaxing physical tension and rigid thinking.

The idea is to meet and greet emotional energy as it arises with the breath. The mantra is: “Open and expand. Relax and let go.”

The second core technique is Conscious Connected Breathing. Learn to flow the breath in a smooth steady continuous pattern—like a wheel turning, with no pauses between the breaths.

The inhale connects to the exhale, and the exhale connects to the inhale… Basically, you are continuously giving yourself small sighs of relief. This is the Connected Breathing technique. By keeping your breath moving you are allowing your energy to smoothly and safely flow.

And so, the next time you feel a powerful emotion, the next time your emotional energy is activated, teach your body-mind system a higher, better way to process that energy. Use conscious breathing!

I recommend you apply the basic formula to your practice: 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at night, and 10 times during the day for 2 minutes each time. (10+10+(10×2)

In addition to regulating your breath, you also need to focus on relaxing the body. Are your fists clenched? Is your jaw tight? Are your shoulders tense? Is there a knot in your stomach? Use the breath and wash these tensions away to keep emotional energy from clogging up your system.

What are you focused on? What are you telling yourself? Use the breath to calm and quiet your mind. Engage in positive uplifting, nurturing self-talk. Extend love and compassion to yourself because we are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve got and where we are. But, make sure to keep growing yourself!


By Blog

This month, I’d like to return to one of my first western spiritual teachers Ken Keyes. He wrote the Handbook to Higher Consciousness and many other books. One of them was called “Three Prescriptions for Happiness.”

Here are his three prescriptions. They are perfect advice for breathworkers!

1. Ask for what you want—but don’t demand it.

When you are demanding instead of preferring, you lose insight, humor, enjoyment, the feeling of love, and you lose your peace of mind. Gently letting go of the demands and attachments of your mind represents the highest level of true strength and character in a human being.

Remember that a lot of suffering is caused by the mind that automatically takes offense at what’s happening. How long are you going to let your mind destroy your happiness? It’s your choice how you operate your mind and how you live your life. You can choose and change your internal emotional experience. You’ll be surprised how often things will change and give you what you want—without your having to demand, manipulate or force anything or anyone.

2. Accept whatever happens—for now.

The truth is we need to learn how to accept the unacceptable, forgive the unforgivable, tolerate the intolerable, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and love the unlovable. We need to learn to take our finger off our internal emergency alarm button. We have to realize that most of our problems cannot be solved by triggering our primitive fight or flight response. Do you really think your survival is threatened by the stuff that you react to in your life? Tell your mind that what looks like a catastrophe just ain’t so! Make a list of things you could not stand a year ago or the year before last and see that you can now emotionally accept some of them. This is called growth.

“Accept whatever happens—for now” doesn’t mean you have to like what’s happening. It doesn’t mean you have to stop trying to change what’s happening. It doesn’t mean you have to think that whatever happens is right. It means that you stop making yourself afraid, angry, resentful, worried—and unhappy.

Wisely letting go conserves your energy, clears your mind, gives you sharper insights, enables you to enjoy the here–and–now moment in your life, and helps you increase your love for yourself and others.

3. Turn up your love—even if you don’t get what you want.

Love means tearing down the separateness and the boundaries between your heart feelings and another person. Love is just a feeling of togetherness and openness in your heart. When you love someone, it means that he or she is putting you in touch with a part of you that you love in yourself. Conversely, when you’re rejecting someone, he or she is only doing what you would strongly reject in yourself.

Love is a feeling of closeness, warmth, non-separateness, understanding, togetherness, of oneness. Love is not a matter of what happens in life. It’s a matter of what’s happening in your heart. You don’t love people because they desperately want your love. You don’t love people because they need it. You don’t love people because they deserve it. You don’t love people because you want them to love you (some may not allow themselves to love you). You just love them because they are there!

Loving more and demanding less are not only the nicest things you can do for yourself. They’re also the most caring things you can do for the whole world! Remember that you don’t turn up your love in order to be nice to others. You turn up your love to be nice to yourself! It takes skill and insight to use these Prescriptions for Happiness. They’re not as easy as taking a pill. You have to work with your desire systems, your ego, your selective memory, your mental habits, your emotions, and the illusions of pride and prestige.

Your mind will come up with lots of reasons for not doing your inner work. Your mind’s really good at this. Don’t let the mind that you’re trying to retrain talk you out of doing it!

I’ll end with one of my favorite Ken Keyes teachings:

“We’ve got to convince our egos and our minds that if we want to live long happy lives, love is more important than anything else.”

Good luck in your practice, and many blessings on your path!

Give Yourself the Gift of a Relaxed Energy Breathing Session

By Blog

I am enjoying a break in my training and travel schedule these days, and am reminded how important self-care is for those of us in the business of helping, healing, teaching or caretaking.

And guess what? We are all helpers, healers, teachers and care-takers! And so, this month, I invite you to give yourself the gift of a relaxed conscious energy breathing session.

It’s a way to reawaken or heighten a deep and natural sense of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing.

Rebirth yourself! Do it today.

Find a comfortable place to sit and relax.

Turn your focus and your attention inward. Listen to and feel your heartbeat. And begin to watch your breath.

Remember that everything in you and around you is perfect. Remind yourself that there is nothing to force or fix or change.

Give yourself a big, soothing, delicious, luxurious sigh of relief. And use this sigh of relief again and again to deepen your relaxation. Use it to drop deeper and deeper into a place of silence and stillness within.

Allow your throat to be open and soft. Relax your jaw and neck and shoulders.

Relax the muscles of your face. Let your mouth and tongue relax. Relax your spine and your chest. Relax your belly, hips and pelvis. Relax your arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers and toes.

Let all your muscles and joints release as you breathe out. And then remain open, soft and relaxed as you breathe in.

Let your whole body breathe and relax. Send breath energy to every cell of your body. Bring your breath into a continuous connected rhythmic pattern. Inhale turning into the exhale… Exhale merging with the next inhale… Begin to open and invite more energy into you with each inhale.

Breathe fully and freely and welcome whatever feelings and sensations arise. Welcome the tingling sparkling vibrations and electrical sensations. Welcome any trembling or shaking as you intuitively adjust your breathing rhythm.

After some time, let the breath come and go by itself, and simply be. Feel your connection to everyone and everything. Feel yourself as a part of nature, connected to the earth, and to the cosmos.

Consciously generate gratitude and appreciation. Acknowledge yourself as a unique miracle. Tell yourself it’s a great day to be alive.

Now get up. Get going. And celebrate this day with someone you love!

Finally, I am suddenly reminded of one of Karen Drucker’s songs:

My religion is kindness. My church is Nature. My God is a feeling that lives deep inside. My job is to be conscious. My path is forgiveness. My religion is kindness, and I practice every day.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has pain. When we strip away our masks, we find we’re all the same. Those little things we say and do that can mean so much. It’s the smile of connection and simple loving touch.

Today I’m going to ask myself what more can I do, To be a radiant child of God, and let my love shine through. Going to let my heart be my guide, to give the best of me. Going to share my joy and share my love, and give it boundlessly.

My religion is kindness. My church is Nature. My God is a feeling that lives deep inside. My job is to be conscious. My path is forgiveness. My religion is kindness, and I practice every day.

Good luck in your practice, and many blessings on your path!

The Lion and the Locomotive

By Blog

At the seminar in Moscow recently, the focus was on using breathwork to access and return to a place of silence and stillness, of deep peace and intense aliveness within us. Call it our center, our source, our essence…

This place has never been touched by anything that has happened in this world. It is always already free and pure, powerful and loving, bright and clear. It cannot be affected in any way by anything or anyone. Even we cannot influence this place in ourselves. We use the breath to identify and remove whatever is in the way of living from this place of deep peace. And we learn to recognize and eliminate whatever has the power to pull us out of this beautiful place.

We start with the metaphor of a powerful locomotive.
A fast-moving train has so much power and momentum that it easily blows through anything that may have been thrown in its path. It continues along its track without even slowing down. That train represents conscious continuous breathing: the connected rhythm. We start by breathing in a powerful and challenging way. And then we continue to breathe no matter what we think, no matter what we feel, and no matter what happens in us or around us.

The other metaphor is that of a mother lion.
Picture her laying in the sun in the open plains, totally relaxed and alert. Meanwhile her cubs are wrestling with her tail, pulling on her whiskers, chewing on her ear, and jumping on her belly.

None of her cubs’ shenanigans distract her in any way. She remains perfectly calm and relaxed and alert. Nothing disturbs her peace, her awareness, or her quiet relaxation.

During our breathing session, we need to take on the qualities of the lion and the locomotive.

Choose a conscious connected breathing pattern that activates a lot of energy in order to bring up whatever feelings and sensations or emotional reactions that have the power to block us from experiencing that place of peace, and also whatever has the power to pull us out of it.

Something very wonderful results when we manage to breathe through things that usually stop or distract or disturb us. Something very beautiful happens when we can remain relaxed and peaceful and calm in moments and situations that usually cause us to contract or tense up, or to become upset, angry, or afraid.

We can practice this alone. But in the beginning, it’s always better, to make use of a partner or sitter, a coach or facilitator.
As soon as the breather shows any signs of stopping, struggling or tensing up, or escaping, avoiding or spacing out, the sitter asks for a report. “What just happened? What are you feeling? What are you thinking about? What are you focusing on?

If the breather says “nothing,” the helper should point out the disturbance in the breathing or relaxation that was observed, to see if the breather can confirm the reaction.

At the seminar, we practiced very active breathing for five minutes, and then we practiced pure awareness and relaxation for five minutes. Going back and forth like that for an hour.

The practice allows us to uncover everything that has the power to prevent us from being in a beautiful, peaceful and vibrant state, and all the things that have the power to pull us out of it.

Make it an exercise or a game, and use your skills of awareness, relaxation and breathing to release whatever has the power to disturb you, distract you, or block you from being in a beautiful state, and whatever has the power to pull you out of it.

Play With Your Nervous System By Playing With Your Inhales and Exhales

By Health & Longevity

Play is nature’s way of learning, and so this month I’d like you to play with your breath and your nervous system in an interesting way, to see what you learn, and to see what happens.

One of the rules of thumb in breathwork is: when you want to charge yourself up, focus on the inhale; when you want to calm yourself down, focus on the exhale.

By leaning into the inhale, you can turn on the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. And by leaning into your exhale, you can switch on the parasympathetic branch.
As I often say, a healthy person should be able to breathe quickly and slowly, high in the chest and low in the belly. A healthy person should be comfortable with big powerful noisy breaths and also with very tiny subtle breaths.

This month, let’s experiment with extending the length of your inhales and exhales. Play with these exercises and let me know what you learn, feel, experience, or discover.

Practice in the sitting position.
And start with leaning into an energizing pattern:
Inhale to the count of 2 and exhale to the count of 2

Then inhale 3 and exhale 2
Inhale 4 and exhale 2
Inhale 5 and exhale 2
Inhale 6, exhale 2
Inhale 7, exhale 2
Inhale 8, exhale 2
Inhale 9, exhale 2
Inhale 10, exhale 2
Inhale 11, exhale 2
Inhale 12, exhale 2

Meditate for a few minutes on your energy.

And then practice leaning into a calming pattern:

Inhale 2, exhale 2
Inhale 2, exhale 3
Inhale 2, exhale 3
Inhale 2, exhale 4
Inhale 2, exhale 5
Inhale 2, exhale 6
Inhale 2, exhale 7
Inhale 2, exhale 8
Inhale 2, exhale 9
Inhale 2, exhale 10
Inhale 2, exhale 11
Inhale 2, exhale 12

Each of these rounds should take between 2 and 3 minutes.
Make sure to meditate between each round for at least 2 or 3 minutes.
Remember also that there is such a thing as the law of diminishing return. Slowing your breath down can reduce stress and anxiety, but forcing yourself to breathe too slowly will simply create stress and increase anxiety.

That’s why we practice with conscious awareness, and we remember to relax as we breathe. If for example you can only get up to a 2-6 count to start, that’s fine. Gently and gradually get comfortable with longer and longer inhales and exhales.

Finally, practice extending both inhales and exhales.

Inhale 2, exhale 2
Inhale 3, exhale 3
Inhale 4, exhale 4
Inhale 5, exhale 5
Inhale 6, exhale 6
Inhale 7, exhale 7
Inhale 8, exhale 8
Inhale 9, exhale 9
Inhale 10, exhale 10
Inhale 11, exhale 11
Inhale 12, exhale 12

Ceremonial Breathwork

By Blog

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a Ceremonial Breathwork session in Richmond, Virginia, led by my organizer there, Melissa Terese Young. Melissa healed her sciatica and awakened to her soul’s purpose in a single breathwork session a few years ago and became a missionary for the Church of Breath!

Melissa brings her love and passion for life to her breathwork practice, and incorporates traditional and native wisdom, song, drumming and her focus on benevolence to her healing work. The breathwork technique or meditation she teaches is a simple 3 part breathing pattern. The first part is to inhale deeply into the lower belly. The second part is to inhale into the upper chest. And the third part is a relaxed exhale.

She creates a very loving, peaceful and sacred space—a safe container—to do inner work. And she reminds people that the focus and the intention is “prana ayama” which means “breath/energy expansion.”

Breathing is done through the mouth using a “hah” sound. Hah, hah, hahhh… Hah, hah, hahhh…

Hah, hah, hahhh… She uses various rhythmic musical and drumming tracks, as she guides people into what feels like a beautiful shamanic experience.

The session lasts about an hour. The breathing pattern, together with her loving presence and her gentle encouragement allows people to go very deep, very quickly. She calls upon the Great Spirit, the Ascended Masters, and invites her breathers to call upon their own spiritual guides teachers, angels, and patron saints, as she encourages them to unleash the healing power of the breath.

I suggest you experiment with this 3 part breath. The first part of the inhale is done quickly into the belly, the second part is to inhale quickly into the chest, and the third part is to release the exhale with a sigh.

Stay with the pattern for at least 30 or 40 minutes in order to give the technique a chance to do its work!

Try it. You’ll like it!

An up-to-date Summary of the Essence and the Basics of Breathwork Practice

By Blog

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.

Opening the Main Breathing Centers

By Blog

Belly, chest, release.

Chest, belly, release.

Belly, chest, release.

Chest, belly release.

This is a very simple breathwork meditation exercise. The idea is to break the inhale up into two parts. Focus on filling the belly first and then the chest. When you are full, just relax and exhale.

Then focus on filling the chest and then the belly. When you feel full, relax and exhale.

Go back and forth like this for several minutes. Do it slowly at first, and then play with speed.

It may help to put one hand over your belly button, and one hand over your heart.

Breathe only into the belly until it is full (this is the first half of the inhale). Hold that fullness and then breathe into the chest until it is full (this is the second half of the inhale). When completely full, simply relax and release the breath.

Then breathe only into the chest (make this the first half of the inhale), and then breathe into the belly (make this the second half of the inhale). Then relax and release the breath.

Use this practice to isolate these two main breathing spaces, charging the belly and the heart, the heart and the belly.

The overall focus of this exercise/meditation is to transformation any tensions or restrictions or resistance in the belly and the chest into a sense of full flowing easy spaciousness.

Be conscious of an intention to awaken, harmonize and balance your feelings, emotions and thoughts.

Breathing to Awaken and Balance Instinct, Intellect and Intuition

By Focus & Concentration

Recently at the seminars, we have been focusing on using the breath to awaken body intelligence or instinct, mind intelligence or intellect, and heart intelligence or intuition.
Many people are trying to get through life using only their intellect or mind intelligence. Yet, we have two other centers of consciousness waiting to be awakened and accessed. All together we have three brains: one in our head, one in our heart, and one in our gut.

With breathwork, we can tap into all three brains and therefore be fully present, create deeper connections, make better decisions, and keep ourselves safer. First, consider that you have three breathing spaces: a lower breathing space from the perineum to the belly button, a middle breathing space from the belly button to the nipple line, and an upper breathing space from the nipple line to the chin.

Breathing into the lower breathing space allows us to relax into the body, awaken our instincts, connect to the earth, and feel safe and grounded in our body intelligence. Breathing into the middle breathing space allows us to awaken heart intelligence and intuition and to connect to everyone and everything around us. Breathing into the upper space allows us to awaken mental energy or intellect, and to connect to higher intelligence.

Start by focusing on the lower breathing space: from the perineum to the belly button. Bring all of your attention and energy to the floor of the pelvis and breathe there. Breathe into your tailbone, your hip bones and perineum. It’s a meditation as much as an exercise.

Send your breath along with your energy and awareness to the lower breathing space. As you do, imagine sending energy down into the earth, grounding you and connecting your body to the earth. Focus on feelings of safety and security. Next, breathe into the middle breathing space, from the belly button to the nipple line. Have the intention to open your heart and connect to everyone and everything around you. Feel the expansion from side to side and breathe into your back. (Half of your lungs are in your back!)

Then breathe into the upper space, from the nipple line to the chin. You are breathing up into the small delicate spaces at the top of the lungs. Your collar bones tend to move up toward your chin when you breathe in. Imagine sending and receiving breath energy through the top of your head. Have the intention to clear and quiet your mind and connect with higher intelligence and heavenly beings. Create a three-breath or three-minute ritual: breathing into each one of the three spaces. You may want to use your hands and arms while you breathe to express and reflect what you are doing with your energy and your awareness.

You can also use sound. Breathe in slowly and make an “ooh sound on the exhale for the lower space to awaken body intelligence and to connect to the earth. Make an “aahh” sound for the middle space, expanding side to side to open and awaken love for everyone –heart intelligence. Make an “eee” sound when breathing in and out from the upper space to connect to the higher frequencies above.

To finish this short practice, you may want to breathe into all three spaces at the same time: knowing and feeling that you are settling into your body and connecting to the earth, opening your heart and connecting to everyone around you, and breathing up into your head to clear and quiet the mind and to connect to higher intelligence.

Do this in the morning to start your day and you’ll be ready for anything! Do it to prepare for an important meeting or a difficult conversation. Do it after an upsetting experience to recover and regain your balance. Do it to create harmony between body, mind and spirit—instinct, intellect and intuition. Do it to be fully present, to be clear, conscious, relaxed and alive.

Breathwork and the Art of Relaxation

By Blog

We have been pounding on the basics and focusing on the fundamentals at the seminars lately. And one of those basic fundamentals is RELAXATION. Some of you may know that relaxation is one of the three elements in the Formula for Transformation, and it is one of the three Cornerstones of Breath Mastery.

Anyone can relax. The question is how deeply can you relax? How quickly can you relax? How completely or how totally can you relax? And in the face of what situations can you relax? In the middle of what circumstances can you relax?
Relaxation Training is important because it’s not just a matter of being relaxed or not relaxed: there are levels of relaxation. And the fact is, no matter how relaxed you are, you can always relax more.

Anyone can relax when everything is right with the world, when everything is going your way, when the kids are happy and healthy, and there’s plenty of food in the fridge and money in the bank, and lots of time to enjoy it all. Relaxation comes easily and naturally then! In a way, one could ask: “What good is it then?”

What about when you are anxious, afraid, stressed, frazzled, confused or in pain? Can you relax then? What about when things get intense, or when nothing is going your way? Can you relax then? Because that’s when it really counts! That’s when you really need it. That’s when relaxation makes all the difference in the world.

Everyone carries a certain amount of tension in their body. And almost everyone I ask is able to tell me exactly where in their body they hold or carry their tension. The most popular places are the jaw, neck, shoulders, and lower back. And by the way, neck tension happens to be a very common cause of headaches.

Chronic tension is an energy sucker. It eats away at our life force. It takes up energy that could be used for healing and rejuvenation. And yet it can be like the hum of a refrigerator, or noise outside the office: we tend to block it out. Because it’s always there we stop noticing it. We no longer feel it. And that’s when tension can do the most damage!

Breath is the key to releasing tension. Something very unique and powerful happens when we combine conscious breathing with dynamic relaxation. If you can breathe, you can relax. If you can let go of your exhale, you can let go of tension. And with practice, you can also release pain!

Take in a breath right now. Feel yourself open and expand, and then let the exhale go with a sigh of relief. Exaggerate it. Make the exhale dramatic, theatrical. We are talking a Shakespearean sigh of relief!

Can you release the exhale without pushing it out, or blowing it out, or forcing the exhale in any way? Can you let it go? Can you release the exhale fully and freely, without holding any of it back, and without controlling it? Can you snap the exhale loose? Can you set your exhale free? That is the first step in the Art of Relaxation.

In order to release the exhale, you have to let go. And letting go is relaxation. And so, when you give yourself a conscious sigh of relief, you are relaxing! I meet many people who say they cannot relax. But anyone can relax for a moment. And that’s all it takes: relaxing for a moment. And that moment is the moment that you consciously release the exhale.

The problem is that, to the ego, relaxation is death! Deep inside many of us are holding on to fear or anger. Part of us refuses to let it go, and so we find ourselves in a Catch 22. Fear and anger cause tension, yet the ego justifies it and refuses to let it go. But thankfully, breathwork also releases fear and anger!

And the wonderful thing about tension is that it represents a bundle, a ball, or a knot of energy. And when we relax, the energy that is released can be used for healing and growth. Plus, the feeling of tension dissolving and energy flowing is very pleasurable. Relaxation can give us goose bumps.

We can tremble and shudder and shake as the tension dissolves and energy is released into the system. We experience tingling, buzzing sensations and electrical vibrations. It’s an extremely pleasurable experience, and yet because the feelings are so unusual, it can be scary.

Deep relaxation opens a door to an amazing amount of energy, and the real fun begins when we can breathe and relax into that energy, because the result is nothing short of ecstasy! And so, the problem becomes: “How much ecstasy can you tolerate!”

The more open and relaxed you are, and the fuller and freer you can breathe, the more energy will flow through your system, and the brighter and more alive you will feel. My guess is that if we could relax completely, we would turn into pure light!

Practice now. Give yourself about twenty minutes. Lay on the floor, or sit back in a comfortable chair that supports you completely. And begin to pull the inhales in and snap the exhales loose.

Give yourself the sense you are opening and expanding on the inhale, and letting go and relaxing on the exhale.

When you breathe in, focus on a place in your body where you know you hold tension, and direct the breath to this place. Imagine breathing into those places where tension lives. Imagine your body like ice cream melting in the sun. Imagine relaxing so much that the spaces between your cells open up so that the breath can get into all the cracks and crevices.

When you release the exhale with a sigh, release your muscles and joints at the same time. In the same instant that you snap the exhale loose and set it free, give your body to gravity and let your muscles and joints release.

You can focus on a different muscle or muscle group with each breath. Or you can focus on a different place with each breath: jaw, neck, shoulders, spine, belly, pelvis, hips, extremities, etc.

Take your time on the inhale. Do it consciously. And then release the exhale deliberately and as you do, let go and surrender to gravity. Do that again and again. Keep pulling in the breath in and then releasing it. Each time you release the breath, you release a bit of tension.

Get a smooth steady breathing rhythm going, and enjoy the feelings of energy. Relax into the tingling and vibrating sensations that sneak up on you as you relax more and more deeply.

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