In Part 1 of this article we discussed how breathing affects your body, nervous system and interacts with your brain and emotions. We also learned two breathing activities, the Ujjayi Breath and the Alternate Nostril Breath. In Part 2 we will discuss the connections between your lungs and emotions, smoking, addictions, how to use sound for physical and emotional benefit, and learn the Three Part Breath.
What about the lungs? Here we have the organ that connects our breath to every cell in our body through the conversion of gases, making oxygen available to the bloodstream and exchanging carbon dioxide. But our organs relate to more than just their obvious physical function. According to Chinese medicine and Touch for Health principles, the lungs are the organ that most connects us to our spiritual awareness, our opening to learning (and isn’t that what life is about?), and our connection to other people and to our own joyousness.
The positive ‘thought pattern’ on the lung meridian (lines of energy running through the body, each connected to a specific organ) is one of humility. It says “I am humble before the wonder and beauty of the universe”. To me this indicates a state of joyful openness, of sensing our place in the world and expressing gratitude and love for creation. The negative ‘thought pattern’ on the lungs is one of pride, grief, guilt, loneliness, depression and indifference. It says “No one can teach me anything”. To me this indicates a sense of isolation, separation from sources of love (including within our selves) and a barrier to growth, development and the joy of changing for the better.
In the relationships area, this meridian relates to appreciating others, being able to have close personal relationships, recognizing the value in others and accepting others as they are. In the personal sector, it’s about accepting myself as I am, enjoying being with and being interested in others. Physically it allows me to breathe deeply and efficiently, have the air I take in nourish me, and to purify my blood well.
Do you know someone who has issues on these topics? It might be worth a good look at breathing habits, and indeed whether smoking of any kind is a habit that is hard to kick for more than just the physical chemical addiction.
What about smoking? Obviously the ideal situation is for the lungs to receive a steady supply of fresh clean air, and that’s all. Any kind of smoking introduces elements into the body that are not helpful for the lungs in their work. Sometimes these substances are ingested to the point of terminal illness.
Why would we do it? All addictions relate to emotional blocks of one kind or another, and any kind of smoking is no exception. Tobacco suppresses anger, and those who are addicted to cigarettes usually have unresolved anger at the self or at childhood events or relationships. Anger is an emotion that creates separation, non-acceptance of the self or others and therefore relationship trauma, which makes sense again when we look at the emotional topics above. Marijuana, although made illegal in most places, is still an extremely popular plant to smoke around the world. This substance suppresses grief, and the issues of deep-seated sadness may have to be addressed for freedom from this addiction.
The connection between emotions and addictions. There are other addictive substances that are common in modern life, but not ingested by smoking, such as alcohol. This substance suppresses fear, and affects liver and kidney health more than lung. Kidneys relate to fear, and liver to the ability to embrace change. Think about the people you know who are or are near alcoholic and you may begin to see the relationships. Food is another substance we often use for emotional rather than just physical comfort. Here we look at the stomach meridian, which relates to satisfaction, comfort and feeling nurtured, or grief, frustration, loneliness and dissatisfaction. I mention these simply to illustrate again how the emotional and physical are so connected. Until now these connections may seem a burden, as one thing falls apart so does another. However now let us use these connections to our advantage, to take the physical and by deliberately improving it support the ability to shift the emotional blocks. Then it can flow back in the other direction, and as we resolve our emotional issues the physical body can respond with moving to a state of vitality, energy, good health and clear eyesight!
Make a sound. When having a massage or other therapeutic treatment, using deep focused breathing, and exhaling with a sound – whether it be a groan, moan, sigh or ‘toning’, can allow the discomfort to be tolerated so that the muscles can relax into, rather than resist the work that is being done. This makes a huge difference for those whose muscles are so tight that even light pressure is uncomfortable. For everyone it allows greater overall benefit to be obtained from the physical treatment. This sound creation also stimulates the thyroid for increased metabolic function, vibrates the cells of the body to assist with releasing toxins, and is both a physical and emotional tension release.
What is ‘toning’? This is simply an exhalation with a steady tone or sound that lasts the length of the exhalation and changes pitch depending on what is being released and what feels good. Practice toning when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. Simply breathe in and release the breath with an ‘ahhhhhh’ to start with. Then begin to play with all the vowel sounds to see what feels good to you at the time. Play with the volume and let the sound take over. After a good toning session you can expect to feel slightly vibrating, lighter and calmer.
My favourite: The Three-Part Breath.
This activity can also be used anywhere, anytime, but does require more focused attention than the previous practices. It does offer a correspondingly higher level of benefits, in nervous system balancing, calming of the mind and emotions, and soothing the stress and tension in the body. This breath is really useful for situations of stress or crisis, for a soothing meditation, and to assist with falling asleep.
You can do this either sitting or lying down as described in the previous breaths. Imagine that your torso is divided into three sections. These comprise 1) your lower belly 2) your middle torso or diaphragm area 3) your chest. Using the Ujjayi breath, breath first into 1) your lower belly, then when you feel about 1/3 full, allow the breath to move into 2) your middle torso or diaphragm area, then at about 2/3 full allow the breath to fill 3) your chest. Breathe in as deeply as you possibly can, allowing your torso to expand outwards.
Now exhale in these three stages in reverse order. First release the air from and compress 3) your chest, then 2) your middle torso or diaphragm area and finally 1) your lower belly. Pull in your belly now and fully expel all the air you can. If you swallow then exhale again you can expel the very last stale air from the bottom of your lungs.
Repeat this process for as long as you wish.
The more you deliberately practice any of these types of conscious breathing the more you supply your physical and emotional bodies with tools that your body and mind will apply more and more autonomously when needed. The benefits of this will be felt in every aspect of your life, from day to day functioning to coping in a crisis. Enjoy!