Excerpted with permission from The Power of Prana: Breathe Your Way To Health and Vitality (Sounds True, July 2011) © 2011 Master Stephen Co, Eric Robins, MD, and John Merryman.
Here’s why pranic breathing both invigorates and calms you. When you are under stress, your breathing becomes shallow and irregular, largely because the muscles of the torso—principally, the diaphragm—become tense and unable to move through their entire range. You breathe higher up in the chest and don’t draw breaths deep into the lungs. We are thus told to “breathe deeply” during times of stress in order to loosen the diaphragm and get it working through its full range. That’s the physi¬ological explanation as to why deep breathing helps relax you. But there’s an energetic reason as well. Your energy is at its optimal level and your mind is calmest when your chakras spin in sync—that is, at a similar, though not necessarily exact, speed, spinning smoothly, alternat¬ing between clockwise and counterclockwise. When they spin clockwise, they draw in fresh energy; when they spin counterclockwise, they expel dirty energy. In a healthy person, there is a coordination or synchroniza¬tion among the chakras as they perform these energizing and expelling functions; they work in a state of dynamic equilibrium, a delicate balance that’s constantly adjusting. However, this delicate balance can be dis¬rupted for a variety of reasons. For instance, when you are stressed, you often hold the tension, as noted earlier, in the torso, which causes the throat, front heart, front solar plexus, and navel chakras to slow down and/or to spin erratically. If you are frequently angry, anxious, or fearful, these negative emotions will knock your chakras out of sync. And if you eat an energetically unclean diet (see chapter 4), your navel and solar plexus chakras are likely to be frequently congested and spin unevenly. When the chakras spin erratically or work out of sync, the smooth flow of prana throughout your energetic anatomy is disrupted, and you can have areas of energetic congestion and depletion. This makes the physi¬cal body more prone to physical and emotional ailments.
But slow, rhythmic pranic breathing helps remedy all these situations. It relaxes the muscles of the torso, restores flexibility to the diaphragm, and enables the chakras to become synchronized. The result is a calm¬ing effect, as well as a buildup of energy. Pranic breathing thus helps you both to relax and to energize, to stay tranquil and to stay alert—which is a pretty good way to go through your daily activities!
In Yoga and Pranayama, Breath Control = Life Control
In yogic thinking, life is measured not according to the number of years lived but according to the number of breaths taken in that lifetime. This gives us a better understanding of why yoga places so much emphasis on slowing down and on controlling or holding the breath. In yoga, the formal practice of breath control is called pranayama, which, as noted earlier, is derived from the words prana (“life force” or “breath”) and ayama (“length” or “expansion”). Of course, this is also an extension of yogic philosophy’s understanding of the connection between breathing, energy, health, and well-being. In increasing the length of the breath and the number of breaths taken, as well as holding the breath in certain ways, the yoga practitioner calms the mind, generates more prana, and increases his or her lifespan.
Exercise 3.4 Optimum Pranic Breathing Rhythm and Retention: 7-1-7-1
There are many different systems that teach breathing rhythm as a method of increasing energy or promoting relaxation. The 7-1-7-1 taught in Pranic Healing and Arhatic Yoga was determined through clairvoy¬ant observation to be the optimum for those starting out their breathing practice. It’s easy to remember and thus practice. But it also produces a significant amount of energy.
(Note: If you have hypertension, don’t hold your breath longer than one second. Pranic breathing stimulates all the chakras, and especially the navel and the meng mein. The meng mein controls the blood pres¬sure, and if you hold your breath too long, it could unsafely increase your blood pressure.)
- Put your tongue on your palate and keep it there as you breathe.
- Inhale for 7 counts, in the pranic breathing manner you learned in exercise 3.1.
- Hold for 1 count.
- Exhale for 7 counts.
- Hold for 1 count.