19 October 2010

Don't forget to breathe

In some beliefs--beliefs that we are not exposed to out here in the west but you readers out in the East (if I actually have any) might be familiar with--there is a story that posits that at the base of our spine lies a coiled line of energy.  It is sometimes visualized as a serpent, and is called Kundalini.  I am sure Western language fucked up the translation, as is usually the case, but either way it has something to do with coiling. 

And this energy is coiled in the base of our spine.  We can, however, awaken this energy and use it to our advantage.  Through Pranayama--breath mastery--we can awaken this energy, and if done properly, this serpent will rise out of our body, along our spine and explode from the top of our heads, leading us to what Rudolf Otto calls the "Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans," or a fearful and fascinating experience with that which is wholly other. 
Rudolf Otto, who looks like a deep thinker in this picture, wrote "Idea of the Holy," and it is his seminal work and has never gone out of print. 
What does all this serpent stuff have to do with anything?  Aside from being creative with their imagery and story telling, the yogis who originally crafted this idea clearly knew the importance of breathing and spinal health.  Once we are aware of how to breathe, simple deduction can tell us that even something simple like changing the way you breathe can potentially improve your posture.  

Try this:  breathe, while looking in a mirror.  If you breathe shallow, your shoulders will rise.  You do not want this.  If this happens to you, stand straight, with your back against the wall, and take a deep breath.  The wall will not allow you to raise your shoulders, and if you place your hand on your stomach you should feel it fill with air.  This is what you want.  You can also get the same effect by lying down. 

If you have ever sang before, you probably already know how to breathe into your belly.  Death Metal singers do it all the time.  Actors as well must know how to breathe properly.  For these types of artists, their throats are vital to them, and proper breathing does not strain the throat like shallow breathing potentially can.   If you should ever find yourself having to raise your voice, do it from your gut and notice the difference as opposed to screaming from your throat. 
Mikael Akerfeldt--Mastery of breath and singing allows him to growl from his gut and sing very cleanly from his gut as well, with minimal strain on his throat, allowing him to tour regularly.
And as it relates to lifting, breathing deeply will allow you to maximize your intra-abdominal pressure so you that you can lift heavier shit. 

Some things that will help you on your road to breathing include trying to breathe through your nose whenever possible.  We have a filter in our throat that filters out the shit in the air, but our nose hairs can help filter out crap as well, so breathing in through the nose gets the air double filtered.  To control your breathing you can also try something called a breathing ladder.  I forgot where I heard of this, but most likely it was on Dragon door website and the idea is that you start at one repitition of a kettlebell swing and  you match breaths with it--one rep, set it down, one breath, two reps, set it down, two breaths, and so on.  And you ascend the ladder avoiding at all costs your desire to suck massive amounts of wind.  I have done these before and if you can master your breath this way, you can get more out of your training.

Once you get good at belly breathing, you can practice full breathing.  This will allow you to maximize your breathing potential, and hopefully awaken the serpent within. 

No comments:

Post a Comment