Playing with the breath : a breathread

Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 6/27/22 4:45 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 6/28/22 5:53 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/3/22 5:02 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 7/5/22 2:20 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Pepe · 7/5/22 8:10 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 7/5/22 9:33 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Pepe · 7/5/22 10:39 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Jure K 6/28/22 7:05 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/3/22 5:03 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread George S 6/28/22 9:08 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/3/22 5:05 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread George S 7/3/22 6:32 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/3/22 5:07 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Jure K 7/3/22 7:52 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/4/22 6:42 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Not two, not one 7/3/22 9:34 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/4/22 6:31 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 7/5/22 2:36 AM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Smiling Stone 7/5/22 12:39 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 7/5/22 12:51 PM
RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread Not two, not one 7/26/22 5:53 AM
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 6/27/22 4:45 PM
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Playing with the breath : a breathread

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Coming from a tradition where it is really discouraged to consciously alter the breath in any way...
Some thoughts on different breathwork routines and their effects on the mind...

That's a chaotic post (take it as a draft really), but I had been sitting on it for a while, so now is the time and I would love if it triggered some kind of discussion on the topic...

So... I have a good friend who is into holotropic breathing and I remember going for a walk ten years ago after a chat with him taking in big inhales through the mouth and basically enjoying myself a lot. That was after my second Goenka retreat and I had become accutely aware of a fear of breathing in by the end of the first one.
I never attended a holotropic workshop but got acquainted with Willis on this thread, who has a good routine of deep breathing. I did one hour of this two or three times but it made a lasting impression, it felt super powerful...
Then, I experimented a bit with breathwork last year, after years (decades, really) being fascinated with the breath and its relationship to mindstates.
I also read a couple of books on the subject and wanted to share what I got out of it.

First I went back to interesting posts (or here, or here) by Dan Cooley that I had bumped into years ago
He has (had, Dan, anybody here?) a deep practice heavily influenced by the taoist approach and advocates for very slow breathing that does not excite the airways and that does not use the upper part of the breathing apparatus -longevity breathing-.
My experience (with the Goenka retreats, as stated elsewhere) is that over a few days of intense practice, the breath becomes more and more subtle, yes, but also more and more shallow (as indicated by Goenka... where does scripting come in?), so for me the lengthening of the inhale needs a volition component... I dug a bit (just a bit) into Tai Chi litterature, without finding more detailed clues than in Dan's threads (kind of a goldmine, really, if strongly opinionated!). I also remember Linda saying years ago she breathed once or twice a minute (I read that again recently)
That's when Agnostic (now George S) talked about the Buteyko method, which I did not know about, in a couple of posts (by november 2020?). It triggered my curiosity as it had to do with breathing less. I looked into Buteyko advocates and felt they all had this "Assistant teacher vibe" in the Goenka tradition. Just a hunch, really... I mainly practiced walking, prolonging the retention at the end of the outbreath. I was already a nose breather but I paid attention to when I was switching to the mouth under strain. That was really good to focus on the breath all the time.
So...I was feeling that the Buteyko people fell into the same trap which had led for me to a bout of hypoventilation at some point... I read half of Damo Mitchell's book "A comprehensive guide to Daoist Nei Gong" (thanks Pepe), exposing an internal Qi Gong full of knowledge about the breath, quite fascinating and mixed with strong worldviews... and I quit when I realized I would have to integrate that energetic worldview (on top of the amount of study and practice I would have to throw in) when I'm more into deconstructing worldviews, really... That's how I went into the western new agey stuff!
At the same time, I was quite curious about the Wim Hof method and unexpectedly got a book ("What doesn't kill you" by Scott Carney, I would recommend "A Death on Diamond Mountain" around Michael Roach for those interested in the dark side of american Vajrayana) about it as a gift. It prompted me into exploring retentions every morning for about three months (as done in the Wim Hoff Method, 30 to 40 full breaths followed by retention as long as possible on the exhale, then inhale again and keep for 15s, do three rounds of this). I started inhaling through the mouth (against my religion!) and switched to the nose after a few weeks (less powerful, more balancing). The exhale is through the mouth to maximize CO2 expulsion.
The gist of the method is that you first saturate with O² for a short while and bring the CO² close to zero (the Bohr effect states that it's the CO² that allows the exchange of oxygen between the blood and the cells, so getting rid of the CO² with hyperventilation will eventually constrict your blood vessels and inhibit the absorption of oxygen by the cells). The retention raises quickly the CO² levels again, so your blood vessels are on a fright train, expanding and contracting like crazy during the practice, which is supposed to be good for plasticity (and for the heart rate variability, as they say). And... lengthening retentions is a game that brings us back to childhood, I really took to it, but eased out when I saw some reddish marks on my chest, which were a mark of my "not breathing enough" on retreat. Nowadays, I don't push retentions that much, I stay in my comfort zone, and it is still efficient.

There was also this guy  showing "tummo breathing lite" which I tried a few times in parallel. I had some very powerful sensation the first time I did it, at the beginning of the long exhale through the mouth with expanded belly (almost "losing it" (fainting, really) in a very peculiar way, with some kind of vacuum effect, and think it might have to do with the vagus nerve. So I would switch between the two techniques depending on how I would feel like in the moment...

Anyway, that was a while ago, and what has stayed is coherent breathing (I don't count, just approximate six seconds in six seconds out of a deep nasal breath), and yawning (thanks to Dan Brule, it's the most interesting insight I got from his book "Just breath", which talks a bit about his experience with Leonard Orr) which is a surprisingly powerful way of relaxing the system (try it, double the inbreath through the mouth, it triggers a yawn quite easily). Coherent breathing is easy to conjure (anytime really) and is a good antidote to my "not breathing enough" tendency (which might not be so common here). I still go for a couple of Wim Hof cycles when I feel like it (maybe once a week, in bed in the morning. I really took to the cold showers every morning, I'm addicted now -did not try the ice baths though, my Skinny Me is fearful of extreme cold...-). And I enjoy a bout of longer mild hyperventilation once in a while, as in holotropic breathing: I like how it agitates the mind imperceptibly after brightening everything big time -the easiest way to get to weird energetics really-...

Also, I've been dabbling with Yoga a bit at different periods of my life (now is a low!) and I've always been super-respectful of pranayama, which I see as a very powerful science of breathing leading to an exquisite control of the mind... and to a lot of kundalini mindfucks when not done properly! Not being an expert, I won't talk about it. Also, I believe it is a world onto itself (likewise Qi-gong -or Nei-gong?-). (and a nod to Not Two Not One, who regularly develops transcultural exercises)

The main thing I wanted to do in this post was to propose some general trends to your scrutiny:

- In the west, Reich, rebirth, the Leonard Orr method which involves hyperventilation, Stan Grof's holotropic breathing: long bouts of hyperventilation or deep breathing, no retention, made to have stuff come up (development), hyper sensitivity, emotional imbalance, energetic restlessness. Breathing through the mouth. Individuality, achievement, oneness.

- In eastern Europe, the Buteyko method, the nose, breathless, control, health-longevity, stillness, puts a lid on stuff, quiet, balance. Shamatta. Also dissociates the breath from physical activity.

-Western Europe, Wim Hof and Oxygen advantage (Patrick Mc Keown seems to have received his main insight on his technique at a ten day silent retreat...), each a kind of crossover... one from the east and one from the west?

-India/China with Pranayama and Qi-Gong : slowing and deepening, going subtle, develoment, cultivation, patience...

- Somewhere... the idea of breathing like a leaf (our lungs as a leaf)... a leaf has no muscles, but can "inhale" CO² and "exhale" O² by capillarity (contact with the surface)...

Where do you place yourselves on the spectrum? I wonder if more people question their breathing habits... I believe that the content of our experience during our meditation practice is,to a large extent, informed by our breathing patterns (as stated elsewhere)...

I'll stop here for now and see if others chime in...

with metta
smiling stone
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago at 6/28/22 5:53 AM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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Interesting thread! I hope to come back to this with more thought-through reflections, but I'll start with jotting down something to get started.

I'd say that I'm rather eclectic with regard to breathing. I can easily let my breath be very long when I relax, and I do think that it's beneficial for healing processes occurring at the threshold to the subconscious. I need to let this happen on a regular level. However, it's not like that is an allround solution. For instance, it doesn't help with dullness. It's no good for physical strain - I use the ujayi breath for that, as fast as I need it to be. I do use a variety of pranayama now and then, some of which are rather fierce and fast. I do a lot of movements in my practice where synching the breath with the motion is essential, and I let the tempo vary in accordance with what my energy body seems to spontaneously call for.  
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Jure K, modified 5 Months ago at 6/28/22 7:05 AM
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Very cool, I'll talk about some of my personal breath related experiences! I used to do a bit of Freediving and did breathing exercises to increase static and dynamic breath hold. At one point I could hold my breath for 4min! Being submersed in cold water though changes your breathing physiology so you can hold it for longer. Before a dive we never hyperventilated because that is a sure way to blackout under water. We used relaxed breathing techniques and always made sure we breathe into the belly and then inflate the chest, if you need extra oxygen. Apparently breathing into the belly opens up the diaphragm and allows the lower part of your lungs to inflate and also get better quality oxygen into the lungs. It's also more comfortable to inflate the belly rather then inflate the chest. After that I always breathed through my nose and into my belly. Although sometimes when I feel uncomfortable I take an extra gasp through the mouth. When I panic I start to do odd, scattered breathing through the mouth and sometimes even hold my breath. Breathing methods are so versatile and infinitely complex!
Then when I started meditating I got in touch with a teacher that guided me in central channel breathing. Breathing through certains chakra points and out through the crown. That brought about some interesting sensations too and good for emotional healing.
George S, modified 5 Months ago at 6/28/22 9:08 AM
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I practiced Buteyko breathing for a while and it definitely helped me relax and get into deeper concentration states. The Bohr effect is totally counterintuitive, but you can really observe it in practice! I also made a conscious effort to elimate mouth breathing (taped mouth shut at night for a while until it became habit). I think that's had a positive impact on my overall health and wellbeing, I'm generally more relaxed with less overbreathing. It became second nature within a few months and I don't really think about it much any more. I tried Wim Hof type exercises recently and it was a fun way to generate some wild energetics, but I didn't feel like it was worth pursuing for its own sake. Mostly I just practice anapanasati now, which I think captures the whole relationship between breathing and relaxation very succinctly:

1. When breathing in long they know 'I am breathing in long'. When breathing out long they know 'I am breathing out long'.
2. When breathing in short they know 'I am breathing in short’. When breathing out short they know 'I am breathing out short'.
3. They practice breathing in experiencing the whole body (sabba kaya). They practice breathing out experiencing the whole body.
4. They practice breathing in calming bodily formations (kaya sankharam). They practice breathing out calming bodily formations.
5. They practice breathing in experiencing rapture (piti). They practice breathing out experiencing rapture.
...

Notice it doesn't say to control the breath, just to notice when the breath is long or short! I think this is because when the body releases tension/stress/trauma then there is natrually a great variation in breathing patterns that can occur, ranging from short panting to very long breaths of 1-2 per minute. You can see this in videos of animals breathing when they recover from life threatening shocks, also humans in trauma recovery practices. So as you scan the body (step 3) looking for tension to release (step 4), the breath will naturally shorten for a while as you discharge the stress before becoming long and relaxed again. So you are kind of cycling around between steps 1-4 while going through the process of releasing tension in the body. The important point for me is never to try to control the breath or anticipate what the breath *should* be doing, but just relax and observe how the body naturally wants to breath according to its own stress release rythm. By the time I get to step 5 (experiencing piti) the physical sensations of breathing have receded into the background and my whole body feels like a pleasant cloud of tingles ...
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 5:02 PM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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Linda: thanks for expanding on the plasticity of breathing your patterns depending on conditions. It makes perfect sense. It's still hard for me to picture what your long quiet breath is like... is it a big breath or a small breath in the end? Do you use your muscles to inspire/expire/both or none? For me, observing the breath going quiet (as in anapana sati) would look like a decreasing sine wave: less and less amplitude between inbreath and outbreath, less and less volume... toward stillness (that is, if my attention is not moving). So the two breaths a minute only makes sense for me as a long deep inhale (or exhale) that will trigger an equally (or not) long exhale (inhale)... Thoughts?
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 5:07 PM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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A huge thanks to the three of you for taking an interest in this topic and answering convoking your own experience. I'll try to answer to each of you (using the tree view ahaha)...

Oh, I realize that, in the original post, I did not talk about James Nestor. In his book about the breath, he talks about tapping the nose as George S. did (classic Buteyko retraining) and he goes through all the methods he could think of, including some secret (read: expensive) mantra driven meditation(Sri Sri Ravi Shankar? Not sure, and I don't have the book). It's an interesting book, but he doesn't look like he masters his subject. I was way more impressed by his previous book: "Deep" which deals with freediving with a team studying whales. That one was truly fascinating to me!

(edit: added the second pargraph)
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 5:03 PM
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George: really cool that you bring your freediving experience. I looked a bit into it and it looks like really serious, demanding training (the tables, the repetition and the short breaks between two exercises, it's much wilder than Wim Hof). "Before a dive we never hyperventilated because that is a sure way to blackout under water". Yes, we could expand on how the breath hold on the inhale is much more likely to lead to a black out. That's the point of the "tummo" exercise I linked to in the first post... and why Hoff has us exhale two thirds (or three fourths?) of our air before the hold. I looked at some freediving comptetition and A LOT of competitors black out, even with taking great care of not hyperventilating. I guess it's because you can't exhale before diving, you would lose too much underwater capacity?
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 5:05 PM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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George S.: Thank you for sharing your experiences about Buteyko, Hof and thanks for advertising Anapanasati. As I called this thread "playing with the breath", I did not think we would go into classic theravada territory... A big chunk of my relationship with anapana (as developed in other threads) has been to become aware of subtler and subtler ways that the subconscious was still altering the breath when my conscious self stayed quiet. So it raises the old question: you can consider that you have no self, and everything happens on its own (like you say, how the body wants the breath), there you externalize behaviour, or believe (as I do) that the self goes below the threshold of consciousness, and drives you even when you don't see it, that would be internalizing... Vipassana takes us through deconstruction, but the richness of our inner life is the result of a long process of internalization. I know, I'm still under the spell of the self!
George S, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 6:32 PM
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Yeah totally, the subconscious/body is where the real action is! It's a fascinating journey of discovery emoticon
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Jure K, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 7:52 PM
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I'm not 100 percent sure on why they're blacking out. But I have heard that it generally happens when they're surfacing, I think something to do with the pressure change but they're obviously at the end of there oxygen reserves at that point too I guess. There are some free divers that actually exhale majority of oxygen before diving as it stimulates the diving reflex physiology more eg, stops blood flow to outer extremities and keeps it with vital organs.

​​​​​​​Interesting stuff, but like you said very intense stuff & I think stresses the body a lot!
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Not two, not one, modified 5 Months ago at 7/3/22 9:34 PM
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Hey, thanks for the nod Smiling Stone. I guess you saw my combined 10 minute breathing exercise attached to this post.  I tend to do that exercise several times a week, followed by Wim Hof breathing, and then finish with an extended inbreath and outbreath (up to 2 minutes each on a good day).

I have another guided meditation that I haven't written up yet, called meet the in-out-breath. 
This starts with a TMI-type concentration,
then moves attention from the tip of the nose to all the physical breath sensations
(contraction, expansion, tightness, relaxation, tingling, warmth, cold etc etc etc, with homage to Gil Fronsdal),
then notices how these sensations change on the in-breath, compared to the out-breath,
then looks for the point of change in senstion at the top of the in-breath, and bottom of the out-breath. 
then associates these points of change with switching from the parasympathetic (outbreath) to sympathetic (inbreath) nervous system, manifesting differing feelings in the somatic nervous system (skin, muscle, etc). 

Together, the parasympathetic, sympathetic and somatic make up the perihperal nervous system. Once you can identify the rhythmic cycling of the peripheral nervous system with the breath, it will be subject to your control and de-construction. This becomes obvious in Wim Hof breathing - if you do WH correctly, it shuts off the nervous system cycling that prompts the next breath and you don't need to breathe until carbon dioxide builds up.  If you do it incorrectly, the peripheral nervous system cycling continues and prompts you to breathe early, even though you don't really need to. You can notice both these processes yourself, once you learn to feel the ebb and flow of the peripheral nervous system occuring alongside the breath.  BTW, I assert that noticing the cycling of the peripheral nervous system is what is meant by 'breathing experiencing the whole body', contra those who say the meaning of this term has been lost or is unknown.

If you are able to notice and then get control of the cycling of the peripheral nervous system with the breath, you will have undone another deep element in the chain of dependent origination, as well as opened the doorway to many other things ...  So to answer your question, I see the breath as the way to hack in to the peripheral nervous system (body), and from there hack the central nervous system and limbic systems (emotion), observe and alter functioning of the mind (mind), and then unshackle the creation of the perceptual world (dharmas).  So I'm in the anapanasati-meets-neurobiology-body-hacking camp!

Anyway, I could go on, but that is probably way more than enough. 

Metta,

Malcolm
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/4/22 6:31 PM
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Hey Malcolm,
I hoped that you would show up here, so feel free to expand on your theories and insights, they are much welcome here (so, no it's NOT more than enough!)

I guess you saw my combined 10 minute breathing exercise attached to this post

I did (the one where you switch between nose and mouth in and out), but the link brings back to this thread, you might want to check it.

Sympathetic and parasympathetic, I'm not so at ease to navigate these concepts, I feel like I'm in a Andrew Huberman podcast. Could we say that:
- sympathetic: opening, exciting, expanding
- parasympathetic: closing, calming, contracting
The good ol' expansion and contraction...
Interesting to link the feeling of the body sensation to the breath. One colour through the inhale, a different one through the exhale. A third and fourth at the two kumbakkhas?
It's a good avenue of inquiry indeed...

once you learn to feel the ebb and flow of the peripheral nervous system occuring alongside the breath

Hmmm, that smells of cranio-sacral therapy and the ebb and flow of the dura matter. Or would that be more related to the CNS?

I assert that noticing the cycling of the peripheral nervous system is what is meant by 'breathing experiencing the whole body'

Ok, I assert that "breathing experiencing the whole body" relates to simply experiencing the whole body while breathing, which is the outcome of the practice of body scanning. You can retort that what we feel is the breath in the body, not the body itself. Anyway yours is an interesting framework. The body does feel different on the inhale and on the exhale...

Same for the satipatthana applied to the peripheral nervous system -body-/central nervous system -emotions-/mind and limbic/constructions of our perceptual world -dhammas-.
That makes a clear separation between emotions and the body, which would give meat to those who say that body scanning does not grant access to emotions. I do think they are totally interrelated though...

Anyway, please expand, I'm a bit over my paygrade here!

with metta
smiling stone
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/4/22 6:42 PM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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Hey George,
Thanks for correcting me, you are perfectly right, they collapse near the surface and it might have to do with the expanding of the air bubbles inside the lungs which gives a shock to the system. I totally forgot that when I wrote the last post...

There are some free divers that actually exhale majority of oxygen before diving as it stimulates the diving reflex physiology more eg, stops blood flow to outer extremities and keeps it with vital organs.

This I had never heard yet, that's very interesting, I'll have to ponder it...

​​​​​​Interesting stuff, but like you said very intense stuff & I think stresses the body a lot!

Again, it is precious to have the opinion of someone who has practiced seriously...
Thanks again for nourishing this collective reflection on the breath!
metta
smiling stone
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 2:20 AM
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When I go into this very slow breathing, I just fill my lungs very slowly from the bottom and up and empty them very slowly. It's a deep breath that lasts a long time, and it's continuous without any pauses. The inbreath gets slightly longer than the outbreath. The breathing muscles move in what feels like a figure eight. 

Lately, I have actually made some effort to breathe somewhat faster than that and to make the outbreath longer than the inbreath and have a pause between the breaths, to get into heartrate variability. My extremely slow breathing skips over that and gets into some other state. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 2:36 AM
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Wait, what? Why would body scanning not grant access to emotions? Sorry for asking a question not related to playing with the breath. I just bounced a bit reading this. For me, emotions are very much embodied. Really tuning into body sensations does strip away layers of stories around the emotions, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still emotions in my book. They may be hard to distinguish from other sensations as there is less conceptualization going on, but it feels to me like the subconscious knows how to disentangle them while we are just there with the sensations of them. This is very much in line with what I have learned about working with emotions in Tibetan buddhism. 
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Pepe ·, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 8:10 AM
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Hi Linda, I hope you don't mind some questions.

- Where do you start your in-breath: pelvic floor, sacral bone, belly botton?
- Where does the belly expands mostly: sides, front or back?
- Where does the rib cage expands mostly: sides, front or back?
- Do you in-breath to 70%, 80%, 90%, 100% of lung capacity?
- Can't figure out that eight figure you mention (no pun intended ha!). Is it about belly and rib cage, ascending through the back then jumping to the front side at chest level and then going back down, etc?

​​​​​​​Thanks!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 9:33 AM
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No problem, Pepe. I'll try to answer to the best of my ability. I just haven't been thinking about it in that much detail. I'd say that I start breathing into the belly and that the belly expands outwards in all directions like a balloon that is filled, but then when I continue to fill up with air, there is a shift so that the expansion instead happens mainly within the rib cage. When that happens, the belly sinks a bit because of changes in muscle use. And so instead the rib cage fills up in all directions like a balloon. After that it is possible to shift the place upwards again towards the key bones, but that causes strain so I prefer not to.

Thus not 100% lung capacity, but close to it.  Note: this is just when I intentionally make my breath this long. Otherwise it can get very subtle and thus shallow. Breathing slow and deep like this, with a somewhat longer inbreath, is a means that I sometimes use to start a reclining meditation because it leads to deep relaxation without getting dull. Conceptualizations fall away while I stay conscious of what happens.

The figure eight is how it feels to me, but I'm not sure if it makes sense visually, and if so, then how. I guess another way of decsribing it could be that there is sort of two different waves that are connected together. Hm, I think it's that I sort of feel the bottom part of the reclining belly most prominent first and as it expands and pushes down towards the pelvis as well as upwards, while still pushing backwards as well, it feels like one of the circles of the 8 blows itself up. And then when the other circle starts to blow itself up, there's a downslope to the belly that crosses over into an upward movement of the chest, so that's where the two cicles are connected. And then that circle, or bubble, blows itself up. And when the outbreath starts, there are muscle movements that go from the chest sort of down and back towards the back at the same time, and with the last volume of air being pushed out, there is again a change in directions. The movement downward from chest to belly stops, and instead the belly is retracted towards the spine, which makes the pelvis tilt forward just a little bit. And then air fills upp automatically again for the next breath. 

So it's not jumping really, more like a continuous waveform but with distinct parts to it. The sense of their being a figure eight makes the movement feel organic instead of chunky. It's all very gradually and naturally flowing, but with one distinct flip on the inbreath and one distinct flip on the outbreath. I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone but me. It could be a synesthetic thing. 
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Pepe ·, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 10:39 AM
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RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

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Cristal clear, thanks Linda! Inspired by this thread (thanks all), I've been trying a few breathing patterns, as I notice that when the solar plexus doesn't expand to the front (when sitted) because of less breath intake and focusing in the lower back , then concentration builds up fast. I actually understood some of what Dan Cooley wrote LOL but found a wall soon because of tight muscles. Maybe its something to jump back later.  
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Smiling Stone, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 12:39 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 12:37 PM

RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

Posts: 284 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Ahaha, Linda, I totally agree with you, it was a reference to something Shargrol said years ago on the Goenka thread :
"I just want to point out how the statement on body scans making the affect conscious is both true and untrue. In theory, it definitely should work this way, but I've also encountered enough people that seem to be perfectly able to experience sensations and yet be blind to emotions, or urges, or thoughts. So I think it's possible that, for some people, they can connect with body sensations and never quite access suppressed/repressed emotions and thoughts.

It surprised me the first time I encountered it, someone being able to tell me phenominologically what they were experiencing in terms of sensations, but when I asked them if they noticed they were adverse/angry (which was obvious) they didn't connect to it. [...]"

(it's just a teaser, more posts were discarding the scan, others defending it, go and read the whole exchange if you wish -starting from Paul's first post-)
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 12:51 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 7/5/22 12:51 PM

RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

Posts: 6857 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Ah, okay. I can see that happening, if the different layers aren't connected in experience. It took a while for me to connect the dots. 
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Not two, not one, modified 4 Months ago at 7/26/22 5:53 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/26/22 2:54 AM

RE: Playing with the breath : a breathread

Posts: 988 Join Date: 7/13/17 Recent Posts
Hey Smiling, sorry for the long delay but I did want to reply.  First, I attach the file I was referring to.  Second, yes totally body scanning on the breath is great. It is another version of the same thing, as directed in the Maha-Satipatthana Sutta where Uncle Sid says:

"He trains himself to be clearly conscious of the whole stretch of the in-coming breath at its beginning, its middle, and at its end. He trains himself to be clearly conscious of the whole stretch of the out-going breath at its beginning, its middle, and at its end. He trains himself to calm down the strong inhalation as he breathes in. He trains himself to calm down the strong exhalation as he breathes out."

So this instuction could be interpreted as super fast Goenka style body scanning or alternative as being quite precisely aligned to my earlier account of 'Meet the in-out breath'.  What I am trying to do is bring in some neurobiology to speed up the training for this exercise because learning to do super fast Goenka style scanning must take months or years, and I certainly haven't done this.  However, the breath/scan exercise can be conceptualised, and concretised, and even practiced in slightly different ways.  Doesn't matter, as long as you are learning to gain control over the bodily formations (breath). 

Third, to go on a bit.  Emotions are complex with many components.  This includes the peripheral nervous system but also the central nervous system, nerve complexes in the spine that are related to various functions (including sexual function) and the vagus nerve (this is a lay summary as I am not a neurobiologist) and even the perceptual processes that trigger an emotional reaction. So we start with calming the bodliy formations/breath, this gives a generally good feeling tone and maybe some zest.  Then we move on to activating more complete emotions such as bliss and rapture, or even ecstasies, engaging other parts of the nervous sysem that have now become more accessible through calming of the bodily formations.  Once we have these more under control (instead of them controlling us), we can vipassinize these emotions to see how they are made up, and to detect the perceptual component around which the emotion as a concept is concretised.  From this perceptual component we start to understand the mind as consisting of links in the chain of dependent origination including sensory organs, conceptual schema, the combination of these, and the subsquent urges, reactions, wallowing, reinforcement, and recreation of the sense of self. From this base we can then practice understanding and control of the whole perceptual system and then the whole chain of dependent origination.

All this can be done through the four tetrads of anapansati
- body - emotions - mind - dharmas

Or through mindulness of the four frames of reference
- body - emotions - mind - dharmas  

But it is complex, with many layers of the onion needed to be peeled off, with dedication, knowledge, and varying exercises, and much letting go.

Personally, I think starting with Anapanasati is great, as the two exercises I have shared get people very quickly through to Anapanasati stage 6, and I hypothesise that they give you the ability to deal better with negative effects that may arise later from vipassana because you have better regulation of affective tone. After stage 6 of Anapansati, you progress to 'perception and feeling' and I see this as recognising and then seeing through emotions and their arising from perceptual and reactive factors.  So a week to train up to stage 6 in Anapanasati, and then vipassana on different frames of reference - including going back to start at the body (rise and fall) if you like, or progressing more quickly to detection of sense percepts within the emotional frame of reference, if you are up for it.

Concentration on the breath, and also mantra or counting, helps. Aside from disentangling the first level of unthinking reaction (body), it occupies enough attention from the mind to take the gas out of the (i) dependently originating negative reinforcement that keeps pulling our strings and disrupting our focus (hence giving calm) and (ii) ongoing resistance to new ideas and counterarguing, thereby hence enabling insights to arise in the place of habitual modes of thinking, as these are somewhat dissapated by focus on the concentration object or objects.

Just my 2c worth.  :-)

Malcolm

PS.  You asked about sympathetic/parasympathetic and expansion and contraction.  I would see it like this:  in-breath: belly expands, energy flows inwards, mind contracts, sympathetic activation; outbreath, belly contracts, energy flows outwards, mind expands, parasympathetic activation.  So along the lines you suggested, but also slightly different. But that's just me.

 

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