The Healing Power of Embryonic Breathing

…embryonic breathing practice takes you on a journey where you get to resolve long niggling physical ailments and underlying emotional discomfort.

Embryonic breathing, also called reverse breathing, or the breathless breath is the long lost secret to health, vitality and longevity.

This type of breathing happens when in utero, where our breath pattern originated only from the stomach, as we did not need our lungs to breath until we were born. We were protected and encased in amniotic fluid, which supported embryonic breathing, along with the mother’s supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Learning the embryonic breath pattern takes you back to that place when you were pure and innocent. The time when you had yet to create a story or self-identity; when you were untainted and free of mind and body…but full of unbound spirit. 

Chest breathing causes stress and breakdown & activates the sympathetic nervous system where fight or flight reactions occur.

This embryonic breathing practice takes you on a journey to that time and place where unlimited healing and wellbeing is possible, where you get to resolve long niggling physical ailments and underlying emotional discomfort that will bring a fresh outlook to life and self.

My own experience of this practice cannot be written or verbally conveyed as to the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits that i’ve received.

As we live life, breathing from the stomach generally lessens and chest breathing increases; especially if we have an unhealthy lifestyle and attitude. In a nutshell, chest breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system where fight or flight reactions occur. This is very stressful and debilitating, so learning to breathe better will help shift the body and mind from a sympathetic state into a parasympathetic state where health and attitude improve. 

…. the way you breathe has the biggest influence on your mental, emotional and physical wherewithal and capacity.

To enhance and fortify stomach breathing and reduce breathing from the chest, I will share some insights, methods and internal connections that will assist in that process, so you are well informed and equipped to optimize your practice.

You will all have your own pace, some quickly, some not so, but just know, whatever the pace, it’s perfect for you.

My best advice is to give it a go and experience for yourself. You will be glad you did!

Breathing Correctly

In normal breathing, if correct, the first 2/3 of breath when inhaled are from the stomach and the last 1/3 Is from the chest. For many of us today that breath pattern is reversed, meaning inadequate use of the stomach and excessive use of the chest. This is mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles that cause various stresses like poor diet, inadequate sleep and rest, reduced physical activities (exercise, stretching, yoga etc), and a heightened amount of mental stress from excessive information and hectic lives.

Breath Controls All Biological Systems

An imbalanced breathing pattern can and will cause many health issues as it is the root and foundation for all other bodily systems and how well they operate. The breath reflex originated and manifested before most other bodily parts and systems, thus is the highest on the neurological reflex order of survival. Simply put, the way you breathe has the biggest influence on your mental, emotional and physical wherewithal and capacity.

Nose Breathing Promotes Good Health

Perhaps the most crucial part to all this is inhaling and exhaling through the nose with the tongue in the roof of the mouth or palate. The nose anatomically and neurologically integrates and locks in the breath, creating a sealed container and closed circuit which maintains inner abdominal pressure and tone. Plus the diaphragm is properly contracted, allowing for a fuller breath; the role it was designed for. 

Appreciate this, nose breathing is our natural way of being and humanness, and should be maintained throughout every possible moment. The nose has hairs called cilia that act as a barrier to protect the body from any environmental toxins, therefore ensuring that each inhaled breath is cleansed and purified.

Mouth Breathing Fosters Poor Health

If the mouth is open, the sealed container and internal pressure is diminished, partly causing the breath to escape, thus breaking the circuit and reducing abdominal pressure and tone. Without tone, journeying into a deeper breath will be inhibited as the diaphragm and other breathing mechanisms will be compromised.

Mouth breathing causes increased anxiety by activating the sympathetic nervous system and lowers our oxygen saturation due to hyperventilation. 

It also causes many health issues over a period of time because the mouth has no filter system like the nose, therefore no protection to the environmental bacterias, and toxins we inhale. 

Suffice to say, mouth breathing is usually evidence of excess stress and is usually indicative of improper posture, suboptimal health, depleted energy and can be rooted in mental, emotional challenges too. Remember, the breath is the guiding influence to all physical systems and their biological functions, and any physical issue also has mental and emotional aspects to it, as they are all one and the same.

Embryonic breathing can aid in restoring these physical imbalances, emotional traumas and help discover a deeper and more intimate connection to self.

To breathe from the stomach only will take time to establish, as your breath has been locked in a pattern for some years…

Stomach Breathing Evolves Into the Breathless Breath

A primary principle with this practice and first stage is to avoid breathing from the chest as much as possible and focus gently breathing from around the navel and stomach/dantien. To breathe from the stomach only will take time to establish, as your breath has been locked in a pattern for some years, especially from the chest, so it will take patience, attention, intention and consistent practice to change and adapt to stomach breathing only. 

I emphasize “gentle breathing,” as the main goal is to ultimately breathe with as little effort as possible, to the degree where it’s effortless and movement of stomach and chest are imperceptible. This effortless breathing becomes established to the point where you’re able to “breathe without breathing.”  

Stillness of breath cultivates a non thinking mind as to be in this breath calls for full attention, thus distracting you from all other thoughts so nothing but your breathless breath exists.

Ultimately, this is a meditative practice of remaining focused on the breath only. The mind will wander, perhaps more often that not, but no need to fret, it happens to everyone… (meditation is the fine art of focusing on one thing or theme).

Relaxing Into the Body

Another key point through this practice is to continually allow the body to relax, as the more relaxation, the deeper you will go. Perhaps we have been stressed, uptight and fatigued on some level for years, thus the body and mind have tightened up, tissues have become contracted and contorted, therefore this new level of intentional relaxation will help unwind those tissues, subdue the mind and in turn, improve breath and health.

Feel yourself sinking into the earth, becoming rooted, connected and grounded, especially through the exhale, making sure you release and empty the air from the stomach, but not fully empty so it causes you to gasp for breath and dis-regulates your breathing rhythm.

Continue to relax the body and mind as you will always be able to locate or detect an area that has yet to be released. The main area to focus on is the stomach, however, relaxing the head, shoulders, chest, back, arms, hands, hips, glutes, legs and feet will allow for further and deeper penetration of stomach and breath. 

Contraction of Stomach and Pelvic Areas

One other important element to this is to understand that in normal breathing, the body expands and the muscles are relaxed on inhalation. With embryonic breathing, the opposite is happening. This is why it’s also termed “reverse breathing”

When inhaling, there is an awareness of the upper, lower, back and sides being subtly drawn in from the pelvic floor/gluteal cleft area when inhaling  and full relaxation of those areas on exhalation. The upper area is the diaphragm which moves down towards the stomach when inhaling, the lower area being lower stomach/dantien, the back area being lower back/hips and the sides being lower ribs and obliques. We can call this the 4 corners or 4 points of abdominal containment. Just make sure as you inhale, very gently contract the pelvic floor muscles gluteal cleft area and feel the gentle inner pressure against the 4 corners of the diaphragm, lower stomach, sides and back.

The contraction of the inhalation helps to contain the breath within the stomach, minimize chest responses and assists in building pressure and maintaining tone. Then on exhaling through the nose, the muscles relax, abdominal pressure temporarily subsides, ready for the next inhalation and deeper tone.

The most important part of this 4 corner concept is to contract the lower pelvic area, rather like you’re puckering up the sphincter very gently.

As previously mentioned, this aspect helps contain the pressure within the stomach and pelvic area.

Mind and Dantien Concentration

Essentially you are using your mind to focus on your body, mainly the stomach/dantien area. It goes without saying, this mind/body intention and concentration integrates the two as one. Ultimately, this mind/body fusion is bringing you into the present moment, the place where change happens and healing begins!

Breath Holds

The ultimate objective is to hold or contain the breath without breathing. When passively exhaling there is a breath hold that is maintained for a minimum of 10secs and up to 30secs or more depending on your capacity. This is the final stage and where the breathless breath ultimately develops and becomes the main purpose and essential goal behind this practice. It’s your capacity to hold the breath that change’s everything.

Let’s Practice

  1. The first step is to lay down on your back, arms to side, relax and breath normally for 1/2 minutes to solidify intention and harness attention to yourself. 
  2. Once relaxed, focus your attention above and around the navel and gently breathe from that area. At first, it may feel awkward or difficult to release the chest, but this is what practice is about.
  3. Throughout most of the practice you are primarily focused on in the stomach, however, occasionally pay attention to all other bodily areas that are not fully relaxed and release them.  
  4. When exhaling, feel the stomach tissues relax and there will be occasions when you physically feel them release. This is evidence of the genuine work you are doing in it’s absolute expression! Remember, do not force the exhalation, merely allow the constant relaxation of the stomach and other bodily areas to expel the air.
  5. Increase the breath hold times as you deepen, but never hold for too long where you have to gasp for air and upset the breathing rhythm. The hold should be to the point where you can maintain relaxation, but conversely hold enough so it’s slightly challenging to breathe.
  6. There is no need to hold with every breath as it can become too intense to maintain. Maybe every 3/4 breaths would be more comfortable, avoid dis-regulation and lose your breathing rhythm. You may take a longer break if needed, just go at your own pace. The last thing you want to do is to force it, as that will usually cause frustration or impatience. Accept the experience with grace and ease.
  7. With each inhalation, gently draw pelvic floor muscles and feel the 4 points enclosing and contracting. Then when exhaling, consciously release more breath than you would in normal exhaling, so there is a slight push to empty out excess air. This is where the oxygen and carbon dioxide ratio changes. Without explaining this aspect to greater depth, just know that when exhaling more than you would in a normal breath, there is a greater release of carbon dioxide, which will enhance oxygen saturation. This will elevate red blood cells and hemoglobin and will immediately improve your breathing rhythm.
  8. The length of a practice session is determined by your mental and emotional capacity going into it and the intensity of the practice itself. Some days I have monumental sessions where bigger releases occur and other times it seems I’m in more of a maintenance experience. Just know they all add up and progress you forward!
  9. Once complete, thank yourself and be in gratitude for taking the time and energy to practice and heal… after all, you are worth it. 

Author: cori

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