The building blocks of the Empatharian Peace Arts curriculum are each quite simple techniques, movements, and thinking. Each on their own will do some good- they exponentially feed on themselves, exponentially boosting energy and well-being. Of course, it takes practice, but you will feel better and more energetic at each step of the way. Calm and clarity are a natural by-product. You are helping yourself to be stronger, more energetic, and pro-active.
Breath Practice to Generate Energy-
First: find a comfortable seat, with a comfortable back rest, feet touching the floor. Now, sit straight without using the backrest, head sitting on top of each vertebrae in a straight line from the tip of your head to your sit bones. Your chin will be slightly down.
1. Belly Breath – Toning Breath
Put one hand on the belly below your navel, then breath in through the nose, so that your hand moves out as the belly expands and the breath enters all the way into your belly. Then let the breath expel through the mouth slightly pursing lips and making a sound with each outbreath. Continue until it becomes natural and then you may remove your hand, and continue. Notice how you can breathe deeply into all parts of your lungs.
Notice first your breathing into the front of the lungs. Then breathe into the back of the lungs: You can wiggle your back and move your shoulders to help the breath expand into all the crevices and spots that haven’t gotten used in a while. The back area actually has more space and oxygen capacity than the front, so it’s really good to refresh your back lungs with deep breaths, and keep the tissue pink and healthy. 10 minutes twice a day.
If you have trouble making the hand on your belly go up and down, it’s sometimes helpful to put the other hand on your upper chest, and with a gentle pressure, keep the chest from rising as it might with normal breathing. It’s a slight change from normal breathing that makes a huge difference, releasing stress, toxins, and blockages.
Back in 1970’s California when Tammy Narena, the originator of the Empatharian concept, did belly breaths, she would contract her belly on the out breath, pulling in her stomach, holding it in for a few seconds, and then the breath would rush in naturally expanding her belly, a small wiggle and the back lungs would fill. Then she’d hold for a moment full lungs, and expel from the back first, then contracting the stomach muscles. In this way she lost the belly that had plagued her middle age, lost some 25 pounds as her metabolism improved, and started dating again. She found the most gentle and affectionate men often had bellies, and she taught them the breathing technique as well. One of those men was [name removed to protect the innocent], and he called it meditation and made a million dollars. She did not marry him, however. Instead she married Dick, who was a wonderful and agile lover, made birdhouses, and helped in her English garden.
This way of using the belly breath has added benefits of building immunity too. Strengthening the muscles in the gut area aids in digestion, but also helps back pain, and improves posture and balance.
Of course, improved breathing and oxygenation of the blood will help promote healing, thinking, and will lower your stress level whenever you breathe with the belly breath.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing– A Wake-Up Breath
Using your hand placed above your nose, with fingers pointing down, press the side of two adjoining fingers (ring and center) against each nostril to alternately press closed one nostril at a time as you breath in the other nostril. Now hold the breath for a moment as you change your finger positions to press closed the other nostril as you breath out through the nostril that was closed, then in again through that same nostril. Hold as you change now hold the first nostril shut again, and breath out through the other nostril. Repeat this breathing alternating nostrils, always breathing in on the same nostril that you breathed out with.
Visualize oxygen going into your head cavity as you breath in through one nostril and out the other nostril. Use this breathing technique whenever you are tired and need to stay awake. 5 minutes usually will do the trick. You could do this breath twice a day if you need extra wakefulness and energy, after your belly breath sessions.
This type of breathing has saved my life, literally, on long distance road trips across the country. If I start to feel tired, I pull over to the side of the road for five minutes of alternate nostril breathing. This helps me to be able to drive to the next stop on the trip, and arrive energized and ready to check in to the hotel consciously.
It’s also great to use before a presentation or speaking engagement, to rev your engines and help clear your head. Ever wonder what those guys are on up there? Well, me I’m on breath.
3. Relaxing Breath– Emotional Distancing
Breathe in through your nose for 8 counts, hold for 4 counts, then breathe out for 8 counts, hold for 4, and repeat. Use this breath whenever you feel stressed and need to cut the mind’s chatter. It will help the body relax and allow sleep, if you’re tired. As you repeat the counting, see if you can slow it down even more, modulating how much air you bring in at each count.
This breath can be used when you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally: anger or sadness, both can be relieved with the relaxing breath. You can also teach this to children, and include the movement of taking a step back. This helps children to anchor the breathing, so that when they’re mad about something they remember to step back and breath, and count to 8, then 4, then 8 then 4. Then they can ask for what they want or need.
For you, a few repetitions of this breathing and then you’re ready to see what you are needing in the moment, look at what triggered you, and discover something new in the space you created for yourself.
If it’s a child whose action triggered you, remember that doing something totally unexpected is often the very best strategy, and punishment usually doesn’t work to change behavior in the long run.
Do something else! Milkshakes! Your best chance with your kids is strengthening the connection with them, though sometimes we all just need a comfort corner to crawl into.
Everyone needs a cuddle occasionally. As grownups, we just have to cuddle ourselves with these lovely breath practices, among other things.