Tag Archive: Healing


 immortal
Revered for its ability to jolt the practitioner into ever deepening states of awareness, this specialised breathing technique has been passed from teacher to student for hundreds of years across many ancient traditions, including hatha yoga, tantra, taoist chi gong, the six yogas of Naropa (Tibetan yoga), and many of the martial arts. So what is the this technique, and how does it have such a profound effect on the practitioner? First let’s take a look at the basic technique and how it is described by the traditions that utilise it, then we’ll take a look at what’s going on at the physiological level.
The technique goes by many names: Vase breathing, Reverse crane breathing, Shakti chalana, Ibuki, etc. The list goes on. While each tradition describes this technique in its own unique way, essentially they are all teaching the same physical sequence. Here’s the exercise in it’s basic form: Breathe in, push the air down into your abdomen (lower lungs). While holding your breath bare down as if you’re going to the toilet. At the same time, pull up your sphincter, perineum, and, if you’re female, contract the muscles inside your cervix. Hold for as long as you are comfortable then slowly exhale. Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose.
In the Taoist traditions this is said to build chi and light the fire in your lower tan tien to initiate the gestation cycle of the immortal fetus (a type of inner spiritual alchemy that is said to eventually transform the practitioner into an immortal).  In Yoga talk the practice is said to fuse prana and apana (downward and upward moving energy) in the navel chakra, which causes kundalini (a dormant spiritual force) to awaken and begin her ascent to the crown chakra where she blesses the yogi with self realisation and a host of siddhis (powers of the mind). The tantra texts describe this as a type of divine marriage of energies within the body, a marriage that lifts the practitioner into states of pure blissful awareness. Starting to realise why this was and still is seen as such an important practice?
From a western, physiological, perspective by drawing up and contracting the muscles of the perineum, anus, and cervix you have stimulated/activated the pelvic splachnic nerves. These are the nerves that cause genital arousal and subsequently turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates a relaxation and healing effect on the body. Secondly by pushing down the breath, you activate the vagus nerve. This activation can actually generate orgasm in a woman, but more importantly it deactivates areas of the brain that cause fear and emotional distress, such as the amygdala. So effectively, it makes you emotionally centred (to a degree). It also releases a host of hormones and neuro chemicals into your body that positively change your mental, emotional, and physical state of being. Plus, like the splachnic nerves, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
With all this nervous system activity happening from a simple breath holding technique lots of brain changes also take place, as you can imagine, changes that are conducive to meditation and deep states of awareness. Those changes are usually visible on brain scans after only four weeks of practice.

So, there you have it. If you want to accelerate your practice, or just add a powerful anti-stress technique to your repertoire, introduce this to your daily routine. You’ll see the benefits in a few weeks 🙂

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Stress makes you stupid

Actually, stress makes you stupid, sick, and smelly.

Now that’s a good incentive to learn to relax and destress with slow, deep breathing. So why does stress make us stupid, sick, and smelly? We can answer that question by looking at why we get stressed in the first place.

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to a threat to your safety and wellbeing. A classic example is to look at what happens to you when you find yourself face to face with an aggressive dog. Your heart rate increases, your digestive system dramatically slows down, your pupils dilate, your blood pressure increases, your breathing becomes shallow and fast, you begin to sweat, and your muscles and heart become engorged with blood as your skin turns pale from the blood being redirected. All of these things happen because of the release of stress hormones preparing your body for fight or flight in response to a threat. In the short-term this type of response can save your life, however, if you experience stress every day, all day, because your boss happens to be an asshole that bullies and abuses you, or you have an aggressive partner, etc, then that type of reaction going on in your body all the time is unsustainable. Eventually you’ll burn yourself out.

From a health point of view, being in a continuous state of stress strains your heart, increases your chances of having a stroke due to high blood pressure, and lowers your immune function because all of the body’s energy is being used elsewhere, which increases your susceptibility to infection and even increases your risk of getting cancer. Where health is concerned STRESS is your body’s enemy.

The effects of stress don’t just stop with the body, they spill over into the realms of the mind. When you get stressed the flow of blood in your brain decreases in your frontal lobes and is redirected to your hind brain and emotional brain. This means your ability to think rationally and plan ahead is severely hampered. Essentially stress turns you into a puppy. Seriously, when you’re under stress you act more like a puppy than a human. This is why it’s never a good idea to make decisions when you’re under stress unless you absolutely have to.

What about smelling bad?  Think about the original example of the dog, or maybe it’s a lion or a bear. When you get stressed, your body will begin to sweat. The more stressed you are the more profusely you’ll sweat. Why? Two reasons. One, sweating lubricates your body and makes it easier to escape the grip of whatever it is your faced with, and secondly, when you get stressed the sweat you excrete tends to smell bad. That’s not a great thing if your on your way to your new girlfriend/boyfriend’s house to meet your future parents in law! But it’s very useful when you’re faced with a predator that wants to eat you for dinner because when food smells bad, it’s a sign that it’s gone off. And even animals don’t like to eat food that will make them sick.

So there you have it. Stress makes you stupid, sick, and smelly. WHat can you do about it. Simple. Learn to slow your breathing and you’ll be able to control your stress levels 😉

A FROZEN STATE OF MIND

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“Most people, because the body doesn’t know the difference between stimulation from the external environment and fabricated emotions, live in the past, basing their reactions on past experiences.” – Joe Dispenza

About a year ago, I interviewed Dr. Joe Dispenza and Professor Ian Robertson on the subject of neuroplasticity, for Positive Life Magazine. The insights they offered during those interviews changed my entire reality.

Over the next week I’ll be posting the most important elements of each interview, while offering a few of my own comments, explaining how each insight can help us in our lives, whether we follow the path of the warrior, the healer, the teacher or the parent, etc.

Change

To understand the process of change, Joe Dispenza describes the mind-body relationship as follows: “Every time you have a thought, you make a chemical. Specific emotions turn on certain circuits in your brain that fire in various combinations to produce a level of mind. That level of mind stimulates another part of your brain to release a chemical so you can begin to feel exactly the way you think. The moment you begin to feel the way you think, because the brain is in constant communication with the body, you begin to think the way you feel, and the cycle continues. This cycle, for some people, can go on for 20 years. The repetition of the cycle conditions the body to memorise an emotional reaction better than the conscious mind, and whenever the body knows better than the mind, it’s called a habit.

“The repetition of this cycle creates a state of being. A state of being is when our mind and body are working together and our thoughts and emotions are aligned to a concept. So a person says I am insecure or sad… etc.

“Most people, because the body doesn’t know the difference between stimulation from the external environment and fabricated emotions, live in the past, basing their reactions on past experiences.”

My comments: What this means is that a single thought, repeated regularly, creates a state of being. So, if I repeatedly think, “I’m a negative person,” I’ll become negative, or if I think, “I’m happy”, happiness will become my state of being. If the warrior, about to engage in combat, regularly thinks he/she is not good enough and is going to lose the fight, he/she will lose every time. This is something that should be remembered when we’re facing any task in life. A positive state of mind is essential if we want to create a state of being that’s conducive to success.

Breaking your emotional conditioning

One of the most interesting facts I learned while speaking with Joe was that the hormones we produce from an emotional reaction only last in the body for one to three minutes, unless we keep them going by our own volition. In which case, they can last for many years, as in the previous example.

We can benefit ourselves and escape this trap by learning how to shorten our emotional reactions to things. Joe tells us, “If you don’t know how to control your emotional reactions and there’s a refractory period, and you let that emotional reaction linger for hours or days, it turns into a mood.

“So you say to someone, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ The person says, ‘I’m in a mood.’ Then you say, ‘why are you in a mood?’ They say, ‘well, this thing happened to me five days ago and I memorised my initial reaction.’ If you keep that refractory period going for weeks and months, you’ve developed a temperament. If you keep that same refractory period going on for years, it’s called a personality trait,” says Joe.

“When we begin to develop personality traits based on our emotions, we’re living in the past and that’s where we get stuck. Teaching ourselves and our children to shorten the refractory period frees us to move through life without obstruction.”

My Comments: It always amazes me at how my two-year-old daughter deals with her emotions. If she falls and hurts her knee, she reacts to the pain by screaming and crying for a minute or two, then forgets about it and goes back to what she was doing before her accident. Young children don’t linger on their emotional reactions and for that reason, they don’t get emotionally stuck in a specific state of being.

As toddlers grow and pick up bad emotional habits from their surroundings, they learn to hold onto their emotional state of being. This conditioning process carries on for most of us in to adult-hood, haunting us until our dying breath.

How can we break this cycle of conditioning? There are a few techniques we can use. Following on from my previous post on breathing, I’ll offer a simple breathing technique that can quickly change your state of being which gives you time and space to create a new thought and state of body and mind.

Technique:

  1. Sit comfortably and loosen any tight clothing.
  2. Take three deep breaths.
  3. Now, contract your abdominal muscles to rapidly force the air out of your lungs.
  4. Relax your abdomen to allow your lungs to draw in air.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 should follow each other in quick succession.
  6. Continue breathing in this way for 20 breaths.
  7. Take three deep breaths.
  8. Begin a new cycle of rapid breathing.
  9. Do a maximum of 5 cycles.

This type of breathing originates in the yogic traditions of India, and is used to clear the mind before meditation. In terms of our state of being, using this breathing technique allows us to quickly let go of negative states of being. Incidentally, it also promotes the generation of a positive, uplifted state of being because of the rush of endorphins (feel-good hormones) released from the lungs and the respiratory muscles.

Have a try of this technique and let me know how it works for you.

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