Conscious Breathing VIII
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Many of our ancestors came from the cold North countries where they were snowed in and couldn’t leave their homes for months. Clutter, trash and other debris that should have been discarded built up, so when the ice began to recede and spring arrived, it was time for SPRING CLEANING. Although few of us now live under such conditions, the old custom remains. We look around the home and see stacks of papers, magazines, books or boxes from those orders we placed two months ago. There are blankets looking a bit shabby that are being taken off the beds as nights are warmer, towels with fraying edges, sheets that are wearing thin. Perhaps there are things in the fridge that are past their prime or something at the bottom of the fruit bowl…. We all know how clutter seems to grow in the middle of the night. It’s happened to most of us more than a few times when we have clung to clutter for too long.
For many of us who are health-minded, springtime often means a liver cleanse or a few days of fresh juices or even a water-only fasting to achieve internal house cleaning. Often in the holidays of winter we indulge in foods that may not be the healthiest and we begin to pay a price for such excesses. We become sluggish and experience a loss of energy. One solution is to drink some form of an herbal tea formula that cleanses the colon, kidneys, liver or blood and we feel relieved and lighter with a renewed sense of energy . Perhaps we even feel even EN-lightened (light within). We may go to the spa or sauna or even lay out in the sun to release sweat and recharge with sunlight so we can make Vitamin D (it’s really a hormone).
Another form of cleansing is to use the breath both physically and as a metaphor for releasing. We breathe in and extract from that air oxygen and other gasses we need as well as prana, the life-giving energy principle that is carried in the air. We breathe out and release carbon dioxide and other gasses not needed by the body at that moment. We also breathe out mild acids carried in water vapor from the lungs.
If we are very enthusiastic about making changes within, we may choose to do some pranayama generally recognized as “breathing exercises” targeting specific needs of the body, mind and spirit. The word pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit words – prana meaning life and ayama meaning control. So pranayama is actually life control, not just breath control. It is the Breath of Life. Prana is literally the life force present in every organism. It permeates the entire universe and nothing can exist without prana. Prana is an intelligent force, yet it lacks consciousness, as the soul is the conscious unit. Prana is what makes us shine both within and without.
One of the easiest ways to increase that pranic life force within the body is to practice some organized form of breath control. One simple exercise referred to in my lineage as the Memory Developing Breath is performed by sitting in a chair, feet flat on the floor, spine erect, chin on chest palms of hands downward on the knees. Begin by exhaling forcefully through clinched teeth creating the sound of a steam locomotive. The inhalation is vigorous as the head is smoothly raised until the gaze is upward toward the ceiling or sky, then immediately the exhalation begins through clinched teeth as the head is lowered, again bringing the chin to rest on the chest. There are no pauses between the inhalations and exhalations. This breath is done in a series of seven repetitions of seven breaths for a total of forty-nine breaths. For best results, the eyes should be closed.
The result is soon evident. The first impression of the practitioner is that he or she has hyperventilated, as they begin to ‘see stars’ or little dancing beads of iridescent light. This light is actually the result of cells being charged with prana through the Breath of Life. Yogis assert that the practitioner can begin to build a reserve of life force within leading to not only increased health, but expanded consciousness. The returning light and warmth of spring becomes an internal fire stoked by this Breath of Life. Thus, spring cleaning becomes an exercise in en-lightenment.