Freeing the Breath: Health, Relaxation, and Clarity Through Better Breathing
What happens when humans breathe? When we inhale, do we pull or push the breath? Neither! When humans breathe, air is pushed into the body by atmospheric weight. What we do is create space for the atmosphere to fill. Although the breath is automatic, it follows, and is affected by, physical and psychological patterns in life. In Freeing the Breath, Kaminoff presents two sessions (about two and a half hours) of guided practice for better breathing.
Both sessions are introduced with brief and pleasant background music. Then Kaminoff’s clear, steady voice delivers concepts to guide the exploration of the breath and the body as a whole. He offers simple, understandable explanations of breathing anatomy, brain actions, and the Sanskrit yoga terms he uses. He gives easy-to-follow instructions in movement and self-observation, and encourages the listener to discover and explore their own pace of practice. He repeats instructions when appropriate and allows plenty of time for the listener to experience the practices.
First, Kaminoff discusses the fundamental life forces of prana and apana (inhalation and exhalation), how they support the intake of nutrition and the expulsion of waste, and how they relate to sukha (permeability, ease) and stira (stability) in the cells and the body. He begins the breath exercises with an observation of the path of the breath in the body.
Next, he explains the body’s breathing patterns. Kaminoff defines breathing as shape change in the abdominal and thoracic cavities. He illustrates how the abdomen (like a water balloon) has a flexible shape, and the thorax (like an accordion) changes shape and volume, shifting the pressure of the air in and out of the body. Exercises continue, illustrating three-dimensional breath in the body: top to bottom, into the sides, into the front and back of the body.
The listener begins to learn that the primary purpose in breath training is not to control or master the breath, but to uncover learned patterns that interfere in the body and in life. Becoming conscious of habits, some learned in infancy, is essential in freeing the body to respond appropriately now.
In session one, numerous exercises continue, boosting one’s ability to observe the movement of the breath in the body. The exercises begin with simple awareness and gradually add various postures, movements, visualizations, and breath manipulations from the abdomen or throat. One learns to notice how the body, breath, mind and emotion respond to each other. According to Kaminoff, it’s all about reduction of effort. Less work plus more relaxation equals better breathing, and better breathing can break patterns of tension in the body.
Session two incorporates exercises from session one into several guided practices done in seated, standing, and reclining positions, according to the time of day, and in relation to what one will do following the practices. For example, if one practices at bedtime, one might start in a standing posture, transition to sitting, and conclude in a reclining posture. Body alignments for all postures, and focal points for gazing, are well instructed.
In Freeing the Breath, Kaminoff teaches not only breath consciousness and training, but the importance of letting the breath flow freely and naturally, uncontrolled. He suggests the experience of being at an ocean shore, enjoying the sound of the waves’ rhythms without controlling them. Likewise, one can let the breath go, wait, feel the body’s need for air, and allow the inhalation to arise again on its own. It happens differently with each breath in each individual.
In stressful situations, one tends to hold the breath. Instead, one should remember to breathe! This awareness can be taken successfully into the workplace, the home, or into relationships with others. For example: when the phone rings, when there is a repetitive task or a contentious person to deal with, one can become aware of the breath, take another breath, and then respond. One can practice a simple visualization or movement with the breath, as a way to transform the quality of a relationship in a stressful moment. Noticing the breath, and remembering to breathe, can improve eating patterns, too.
Everyone has a choice in their relationship with prana, the fundamental life force. Freeing the Breath is highly recommended for those who seek a greater sense of well being and want to take the first steps toward better breathing for better health.