The Diaphragm: Master Key to Breathwork

The neuroscience behind mindfulness

Why is it that simply paying conscious attention to breathing is so powerful?

No matter what culture, religion, or spiritual tradition you examine–this is in most, if not all of them. This 11-minute audio is from last night’s FaceBook Live hangout. Included is an excerpt from Dr. Dan Siegel‘s “Creating Harmony With Breath Awareness.”

Included is an excerpt from “Creating Harmony With Breath Awareness,” by Dr. Dan Siegel, Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. A leader in the field of contemplative neuroscience, Dr. Siegel explains:

Mindfulness involves attuning to our own intention. Of course, mindfulness itself is an intentional state, so we could say that this creates the following tongue twister: An intention to pay attention to intention to be mindful. This appears to be a reentry loop of mental reinforcement that lies at the heart of the experience. Intention to attend to intention.

An example of this kind of intrapersonal attunement would be the practice of breath awareness. You are aware of your in-breath. The mirror neuron (a neuron that fires both when a person performs an action and when the person observes the same action performed by another) and superior temporal areas (which play a significant role in the executive attention network of the brain) as a part of the resonance circuits, automatically—through SIMA (sensory implications of motor action)—anticipate the out-breath.

With a beat of time, the out-breath indeed comes and there is a match between what was anticipated and what is happening. That matching creates coherence. Naturally the awareness of the out-breath entrains an anticipation of the in-breath, which when it comes, integrates SIMA with here-and-now awareness and reflective coherence is created. This may be why the breath is such a powerful, and common, focus of mindful awareness. It is also interesting to note that each relaxed half breath takes about the interval D. N. Stern (The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003) defines as the present moment.

New resilience-building class!

Breath-centered Practices for Resilience

WHY: If you want to master stress rather than escape it, this class is for you. From world leaders to homemakers, from cyber-citizens to those living off the grid, resilience training can make the difference between mere survival and thriving, between being stressed out by the daily tempest and surfing the tempest like a master. If you want to create a stronger inner gyroscope–with less wobble, this class is definitely for you.

WHAT: A short yoga practice to prepare the body for breathwork and meditation. Breath and meditation techniques for building mental and emotional resilience. This is not a traditional pranayama class; we will combine ancient techniques with cutting-edge research from the military and law enforcement.

WHERE: Sky House Yoga in Silver Spring, Maryland

WHEN: Mondays 7:40-8:40pm

FIRST CLASS: March 20, 2017

WHO: Joseph R. Roberson (my contact email is: joeATjosephroberson.com)

NadaBrahma: love is an altered state

NadaBrahma-love-circle-600

Love may well be the ultimate altered state.

The term altered state usually implies something extremely different from day to day life. More often than not, drugs are involved. While my experiences with altered states have involved illegal drugs, that was long ago. Most of my experiences with altered states happen during meditation, breathwork, art-making, and love and sex.

The kind of altered state I’m describing in this post, however, is the experience of love that happens during the Altered States workshop. I did not always see altered states this way. I did not always think of this workshop as a way of creating spiritual love. That sounds odd and pretentious, don’t you think? But I have been led by the practice itself, by Osho’s NadaBrahma Meditation especially, to this conclusion. My experience leading this workshop many, many times has led me here.

What happens is, after 30 minutes of humming mmmmmmmm (like when we do endless Om but without the O sound), the body becomes a tuning fork. The gentle humming massages the organs and releases tensions. It feels as though the body is an empty reed, a wind instrument. Every body in the room vibrates together. This simple droning, these shared sea-waves of sound, interpenetrate each choral body.

In addition to this toning, I have added some things to the original meditation. I play the gong and provide verbal guidance. The gong complements and amplifies the humming. In particular, the gong vibrates the spine from base to crown. Its Chaladni patterns change as they move up and down the keyboard of chakras. This journey through the chakras continues up and down the spiral staircase until we arrive and settle into the heart. By this point the humming, the vibrating, and the chakra meditation have delivered you home to yourself. I don’t know the details, but I understand that part of the blissed-out state here comes from increased carbon dioxide in the blood. I have read studies documenting such elevated levels of carbon dioxide, relative to the ratio of oxygen, in meditators. Whatever the physiological basis, the experience is heavenly.

At the end of this powerful meditation, the heart chakra opens, radiating gold and green in every direction. You have become the sun. You know yourself to be the source of light, warmth, and love. And so is every other person around you! The room is ablaze with one sea-field of gold and green love energy. The group radiates as one!

Love is the ultimate altered state!

What is transformation?

1. In the world of business, leadership development, organizational development, change management, et al, the term transformation is the process whereby an unprecedented future is brought to reality. This created future is not mere change–improvement or fix of what has already happened in the past; nor is it predetermined, as is the case in a butterfly’s natural, albeit radical, metamorphosis.

2. In the world of spiritual growth–yoga, breathwork, meditation, et al–the term transformation seems to consistently denote metamorphosis–the process whereby one’s natural potential is brought to reality, as in the ubiquitous example of a butterfly. Typically, the goal in this kind of personal transformation is to remove whatever is in the way of an unfettered ‘natural state.’ This so-called natural state is typically said to be a state of happiness, wellbeing, joy, and, ultimately,  a transpersonal experience of Oneness.

The difference between these two meanings of transformation is outer vs. inner: in business, what is pursued is a specific state of affairs of the organization; in spiritual growth, on the other hand, what is pursued is a specific state of affairs of/within the individual. This is an oversimplification, of course; yet it effectively highlights the contrast.

How can these two disparate worlds of transformation enrich one another?

Breath: Science to Samadhi Immersion at Kripalu!

I am happy to be volunteering on the production team for the Breath: Science to Samadhi Immersion at Kripalu! Sounds like an amazing event and I would not miss it. Please let me know if you are interested in attending and/or helping.

“One conscious, optimal breath can transform you and the world. Immerse yourself in the full spectrum of ancient and modern practices that cultivate conscious, optimal breathing. The international faculty is drawn from pioneers in the movement and newly emerging leaders.

This highly experiential, collaborative, and innovative program explores the potential of breath as:
*The unifying language of the human species
*Friend, healer, teacher, lover, awakener
*Guide and nutrient for enhanced relationship resonance, parenting, sexuality, creativity, service, and social activism
*Medicine for physical, emotional, and cognitive imbalance
*The doorway to consciousness and enlightenment.

Breakout sessions cover a variety of breath modalities, offer information on becoming a breathworker, and provide supervision from master breathworkers. Join us for healing, personal growth, spiritual development, enhanced creativity, increased intelligence and wisdom, improved relational harmony, attuned access to intuition, heightened mystical realization, and fully participating in building a healthier world together.

*Note This program is ideal for everyone, including beginners, health professionals interested in incorporating breathwork into their practices, and master breathworkers who want to expand the breadth and depth of their knowledge.

Hallelujah Breath

Lying in bed, mid-morning, listening to H-Nap 2 (from Monroe Products/Hemi-Sync) through my Bose noise-canceling earbuds. I’m wearing a blackout meditation mask (MINDFOLD) that allows me to have my eyes open without discomfort. An Ace bandage is wrapped around my head several times over the mask to block the light more. It also keeps the earbuds in place and blocks a bit more sound. My head has settled comfortably into my favorite memory-foam pillow. In my right palm rests an amethyst egg; in my left, one of rose quartz.

This new breath technique I’m practicing is good so I want to share it with you. It’s not really anything new, except for the way the elements are combined. But it feels like a new technique to me. I feel like it really helps power up and center my gyroscope. It helps me to focus and strengthens the ‘eye’ of my ‘hurricane.’  I like it a lot. Try it and let me know your experience!


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it releases.

Repeat steps 1-4 for three cycles or four cycles. Once you have mastered the technique and are ready, increase each session up to a maximum of eight cycles.


 

If you do try this please let me know your experience. There’s no reason why you can’t do this sitting or even standing rather than lying down.  Oh–and by the way–the mask and quartz eggs are optional.

*NOTE: Below you will find additional details listed as options. I thought it better to keep the instructions short and simple initially, in case you are new to pranayama. You may prefer to think of these options as progressive stages towards the full technique:


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
    *Option 1: Silently count to 8 while inhaling. “In-Hale-Three” fills low lungs; “Four-Five-Six” fills middle, armpit lungs; “Seven-Eight” fills top lungs.
    *Option 2: Inhale in 8 separate sniffs/segments.
    *Option 3: Listen to the sound of your inhale as the syllable “So” or “Sa.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the inhale traveling from your pelvic floor, up the back body and spine, over your skull towards the front until–at the conclusion of your inhale–this movement brings your attention to the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
    *Option 1: If you can feel your heartbeats, count 8 of them.
    *Option 2: Gently ‘tap’ this ridge with the tip of your tongue with each heartbeat.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
    *Option 1: Silently intone “Ex-Hale-Three-Four-Ha-Lay-Loo-Yah!” (and feel the meaning!).
    *Option 2: Listen to the sound of your exhale as the syllable “Hum” or “Ham.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the exhale traveling down your front body, down through the throat, heart, lungs, belly, sex organs, until it ends–at the conclusion of your exhale–back at the pelvic floor.
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back, in as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it instantly snaps back.
    *Option 1: On each pump, silently repeat “Wa-Hey-G’Rue!” (“Great, indescribable light!”).
    *Option 2: Each pump is actually comprised of three distinct pulls: first, draw your navel slightly back; second, more back; third, as far back as possible.
    *Option 3: The first part of the pull is “Wa,” the second is “Hey,” and the third is “G’Rue.”
    *Option 4: Before you begin the next inhale, imagine/feel this vitalizing energy– generated by the navel-activating pumps–down to the pelvic floor, the origin point of the next inhale.