The breath plays a most important part in the relaxing of the body and often it is the breath that is the determiner of the body's responses, not the body that is determining the breath's reaction. In other words you are not breathing fast because you have been running, you are able to run because you are able to breathe quickly and supply the additional oxygen requirements to the body. You could not run at all if you could not breathe at all. In fact, you could not do anything at all if you could not breathe well. You would be asthmatic and unable to perform any vigorous exercise or to exert too much.
Your breath is the most important thing in your body. It is the only thing that you can not consciously deprive yourself of. You can poke your eyes out, kill yourself for love, bust your ear drums listening to loud music, deprive yourself of food, but you cannot hold your breath till you suffocate and you cannot let someone else suffocate you. Your body will not just relax and let itself be deprived of air. You will do anything to anyone when the need for air becomes dire for your survival.
The breath plays a very important part in relaxation because it plays a large part in the control of our body's reactions to certain events. For example, we have already noted that we could not run if we were not able to breathe fast and deep enough to supply the additional oxygen requirement needed by the body. When we are angry our breath becomes short and fast like when we are running. But when we are sleeping, our breath becomes slow and deep and relaxed and so is our mind. We cannot be breathing slow and deep and relaxed if we are angry. Just as we cannot be breathing slow and easy when we are upset. We breathe calm and our mind responds calmly, our muscles respond calmly. Your breath stills the mind and calms the nerves. So exercises have been developed centuries ago by people who understood the importance of the breath as a factor in self understanding and mind and body control. We will practice or study by practice, three of these methods.
Counting the Breaths: Sit in a meditative posture (see Chapter 10) and take a few deep breaths to calm the mind. Now begin to concentrate only on the breath as it comes in and as it leave the body. Try to clear the mind of all outside thoughts and concentrate only on the incoming and outgoing breaths. When you begin to breathe in, think only of the number One or only of this being your first breath. Let no other thoughts enter your mind but the number One. Continue to concentrate on this number all the way through the breath and as you begin to breathe out, continue to think and concentrate only on the number One. Now as you begin your next breath think and concentrate only on the number Two. Clear the mind of all other thoughts and think only of the number Two as you breathe in and as your breathe out. Continue to do this slow breathing and concentration up to the number Ten striving to keep the mind calm, not tense, and concentrating only on the numbers.
In a very few seconds you will see the extreme difficulty of clearing the mind and in only concentrating on the numbers. Thoughts will begin to float up and your mind will notice them and you will begin to feel and think about these thoughts and so become distracted from your primary purpose of thinking and seeing only the numbers. But do not become discouraged. This is an exercise and technique that can take literally years of practice to do perfectly. The mind is always full of extra thoughts and you must practice trying to calm it just as you would practice trying to learn a new skill, over and over again with patience and a calm and resolved manner. You cannot still the mind by being angry at it for thinking other thoughts, or calm the mind by tightening the muscles. Just relax and try to concentrate the mind only on the breath. Gradually you will be able to think only of the numbers.
Counting The Breath 2. If you are having great difficulty in visualizing the numbers then perhaps the visualization of colors will be easier for you. when you breathe in, think only of the color red, through the entire breath, and then of the color blue, then green, then orange, then black, then white, then yellow, then brown, then purple, and finally pink, (or you can use any color you wish). This may be easier for you and provides a more pleasing visual stimulus for the mind.
You should perform this counting exercise every day for at least a few weeks until you have begun to gain some mastery over your mind and some control of your mind. Practice should only take a few minutes, up to five, and so should not be troublesome to you for finding the time to practice. After you have begun to get good in this you may want to do it more often for the relaxing effects it has on the mind and body. You may do it as often or as little as you wish. You can do it on the sidelines when you find yourself getting upset (remember how your mother told you to count to ten if you were angry). The same effect is achieved now but you are adding the effect of the slow and easy breathing to calm the nerves and soothe the mind.
Controlling The Breath: this exercise trains one in the voluntary control of the breath by the conscious will of the mind. You will not be allowing the body to breathe normally but will be trying to force it to breathe as the mind wishes. Sit in the meditative posture and close the eyes. Take a few deep breaths to calm the mind and now slowly begin to breathe in for the count of 10, count each number silently to yourself. Now hold your breath without pressing down or lifting your shoulders up for the count of 10. Now begin to breathe out for the count of 10, trying to make the out-breathing slow and controlled and not breathe out all the air at the beginning of the out-breath. Immediately after you have breathed out for 10, begin to breathe in again for the count of 10. Hold it for 10 and out for 10. Do this exercise 10 times. You will find that you may start to sweat and that you really have to use a lot of muscles and mind control to stop your body from breathing in too quickly or out too fast. This is an excellent form of breathing control and the benefits are numerous. It teaches the mind great strength and begins to reconfirm to the muscles the power of the mind over them. It produces a body heat, and so can be used if you are cold; and it strengthens the breath control by the actual controlling g of the breathing movement. You can consider yourself exceptional if you can breathe in for 30 seconds, hold it for 30 seconds and breathe out for 30 seconds - 10 times. This shows a true mastery of the breath and a great deal of muscle and mind control. Do this exercise daily for a few weeks until you have been able to do all ten breaths in the correct count. Thereafter you may do it as often as you wish for the benefits to the muscles, the body and the mind.
Following The Breath: the purpose of this exercise is to transcend the mind and to concentrate only on the breath as it fills the body and the lungs and to follow it as it comes and goes in and out. This is a very soothing and relaxing form of breathing and the benefits are long lasting and comforting.
Sit in the meditative posture, close the eyes and take a few deep breaths to calm the mind and relax the nerves. Now as you begin to breathe in, try to let all other thoughts leave the mind except following the breath as it goes through your nostrils, down your throat and fills your lungs, then is dispersed to the various parts of your body. Follow it as it returns up your throat and out your nostrils and into the air. Try to imagine a golden string being attached to your lungs that comes out of you as you breathe the air out and comes back into the lungs as you breathe in. Let your mind remain calm and follow the breath softly and easily. Soon you will begin to feel the body become filled with air and begin to feel very calm and relaxed, very soothed and light. The breath will fill your mind and your body and you will begin to feel as light as your breath itself. Do this exercise as long as you feel light and are able to concentrate on following the breaths. It is very soothing and relaxing. Perform this exercise any time you are upset or any time you wish to feel truly relax
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