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The Esoteric Theory of Breath
First of all, to avoid any confusion it is perhaps advisable to define what is meant by 'Prana' in this article. Prana is a Sanskrit term meaning Absolute Energy. In this context prana is the principle of energy exhibited in all living things, which distinguishes them from a lifeless thing. It may be considered as the active principle of life - vital force. It is found in all forms of life, from the most elementary from of plant life to the highest for of animal life. Prana is all evading. It is found in all things having life and occult philosophy teaches that life is in all things - in every atom - the apparent lifelessness of some things being only a lesser degree of manifestation.
So prana is the name given to a universal principle which is the essence of all motion, force or energy, whether manifested in gravitation, electricity, the revolution of the planets, and all forms of life. It is in the air, but it is not the air nor one of its chemical constituents. Animal and plant life breath it in with the air.
We are constantly inhaling the air charged with prana. In ordinary breathing we absorb and extract a normal supply of prana, but by controlled and regulated breathing, we are able to extract greater supply, which is stored away in the brain and nerve centres to be used when necessary - in much the same way as a battery stores electricity. By certain forms of breathing it is possible to establish certain relations with the supply of prana and draw on it for what you require. Not only is it possible to strengthen all parts of the body in this way, but the brain itself may receive increased energy from the same source, and latent faculties be developed and psychic powers attained.
The oxygen in the air is appropriated by the blood and is made use of by the circulatory system. The prana in the air is appropriated by the nervous system, and is used in its work. And as the oxygenated blood is carried to all parts of the system, building up and replenishing, so is the prana carried to all parts of the nervous system, adding strength and vitality.
Four classifications of breathing Respiration can be classified into four general methods:
This form of breathing is more commonly know as Clavicular Breathing or Collar-one Breathing. In breathing in this way, one elevates the ribs and raises the collar-bone and shoulders at the same time, drawing in the abdomen and pushing its contents up against the diaphragm, which in turn is raised.
The upper part of the chest and lungs, which is the smallest, is used, and consequently only a minimum amount of air enters the lungs. In addition, because the diaphragm is raised, there can be no expansion in that direction. In this way a maximum amount effort is used to obtain a minimum amount of benefit. Not a good idea!
In fact, high breathing is probably the worst form of breathing and requires the greatest expenditure of energy for the smallest amount of benefit. Unfortunately, it is the way most of us in the Western world do actually breath.
If you have doubts about this, try expelling all the sir from the lungs, then standing erect, with hands at the side, raise the shoulders and collar-bone and inhale. You will find that the amount of air inhaled is far below normal. Then inhale a full breath and see what happens!
This method of respiration is often called Rib Breathing, or Intercostal Breathing and, although better than high breathing, is far inferior to either Low Breathing or Complete Breathing. In Mid Breathing the diaphragm is pushed upward, and the abdomen drawn in. The ribs are raised somewhat, and the chest is partially expanded.
Low BreathingThis form of respiration is far better than either of the two previous forms and many Western writers have extolled its merits and have called it Abdominal Breathing, Deep Breathing, Diaphragmic Breathing and so on.
In Low Breathing, the lungs are given freer play than in the methods already mentioned, and consequently more air is inhaled. But even with Low Breathing, the lungs do not become completely filled with air - at best, only a portion of the lung spaced is filled. With High Breathing only the upper portion of the lungs is filled. Mid Breathing fills only the lower middle and a portion of the upper parts. Low Breathing fills only the lower and middle parts.
The Complete BreathComplete breathing brings into play the entire respiratory apparatus, every part of the lungs, every air-cell, every respiratory muscle. The entire respiratory organism responds to this method of breathing, and the maximum amount of benefit is derived from the minimum expenditure of energy. The chest cavity is increased to its normal limits in all directions and every part of the machinery performs its natural work and functions.The lower ribs are controlled by the diaphragm which draws them slightly downward, while other muscles hold them in place and the intercostal muscles, which increases the capacity of the upper chest to its fullest extent.
The Complete Breath in Practice
It is fundamental that the Complete Breath is mastered in order to obtain results from the other forms of breath discussed in this article. This will require work, time and patience, but without these things nothing is ever accomplished.
The Complete Breath is not a forced or abnormal thing, but on the contrary it is a going back to first principles -- a return to nature. It may be surprising to learn, but the Complete Breath does not necessarily call for the complete filling of the lungs at every inhalation. What is essential is that a series of full Complete Breaths are inhaled several times a day, whenever opportunity offers, in order to keep the system in good order.
The following exercise will give a clear idea of what the Complete Breath is:Stand or sit erect. breathing through the nostrils, inhale steadily, first filling the lower part of the lungs, which is accomplished by brining into play the diaphragm, which descending exerts a gentle pressure on the abdominal organs, pushing forward the front walls of the abdomen. Then fill the middle part of the lungs, pushing out the lower ribs, breast-bone and chest. The fill the higher portion of the lungs, protruding the upper chest, thus lifting the chest, including the upper six or seven pairs of ribs. In the final movement, the lower part of the abdomen will be slightly drawn in, which movement gives the lungs a support and also helps to fill the highest part of the lungs.It may seem that this breath consists of three distinct movements. This, however, is not the correct idea. The inhalation is continuous, the entire chest cavity from the lowered diaphragm to the highest point of the chest in the region of the collar-bone, being expanded with a uniform movement. Avoid a jerky series of inhalations, and strive to attain a steady continuous action. Practice will soon overcome the tendency to divide the inhalation into three movements and result in a continuous breath.
Other Breathing Exercises
This exercise may be carried out to ventilate and cleanse the lungs. Many of the other exercises may be concluded with it. The Cleansing Breath ventilates and cleanses the lungs, stimulates the cells and gives a general tone to the respiratory organs, and is conducive their general healthy condition. It will also refresh the entire system. It will also be found to be refreshing when one is tired and generally used up.
Nerve Vitalising Breath
The purpose of this exercise is to stimulate the Nervous System, develop nerve force, energy and vitality. It brings a stimulating pressure o bear on important nerve centres, which in turn stimulate and energise the entire nervous system, and send an increased flow of nerve force to all parts of the body.
The efficiency of this exercise depends on the speed of the drawing back of the fists, and the tension of the muscles, and, of course, upon the full lungs.
The Retained Breath
This is a very important exercise which tends to strengthen and develop the respiratory muscles as well as the lungs, and its frequent will also tend to expand the chest. Occasional holding of the breath, after the lungs have been filled with the Complete Breath, is very beneficial, not only to the respiratory organs but to the organs of nutrition, the nervous system and the blood itself. An occasional holding of the breath tends to purify the air which has remained in the lungs from former inhalations, and to more fully oxygenate the blood. The breath so retained gathers up all the waste matter, and when the breath is expelled it carries up all waste matter, and when the breath is expelled it carries with it the effete matter of the system, and cleanses the lungs just as a purgative does the bowels.
The following exercise in Rhythmic Breathing should be thoroughly mastered, as it forms the basis of numerous other exercises. may be easily maintained.
After a little practice you will be able to increase the duration of the inhalations and exhalations, until about fifteen pulse units are consumed. In this increase, remember that the units for retention and between breaths is one-half the units for inhalation and exhalation
Lying flat on the floor or bed, completely relaxed, with hands resting lightly over the Solar Plexus (over the pit of the stomach, where the ribs begin to separate), breathe rhythmically. After the rhythm is fully established will that each inhalation will draw in an increased supply of prana or vital energy from the Universal supply, which will be taken up by the nervous system and stored in the Solar Plexus. At each inhalation will that the prana or vital energy is being distributed all over the body, to every organ and part; to every muscle, cell and atom; to nerve, artery and vein; from the top of your head to the soles of your feet; invigorating, strengthening and stimulating every nerve; recharging every nerve centre; sending energy, force and strength all over the system. While exercising the will, try to form a mental picture of the inrushing prana, coming in through the lungs and being taken up at once by the Solar Plexus, then with the exhaling effort, being sent to all parts of the system, down to the finger tips and down to the toes. It is not necessary to use the Will with an effort. Simply commanding that which you wish to produce and then making the mental picture of it is all that is necessary. Calm command with the mental picture is far better then forcible willing, which only dissipates force needlessly. The above exercise is most helpful and greatly refreshes and strengthens the nervous system and produces a restful feeling all over the body. It is especially beneficial in cases where one is tired or feels a lack of energy.
Lying down or sitting erect, breath rhythmically, holding the thought that you are inhaling prana. Then when you exhale, send the prana to the painful part to re-establish the circulation and nerve current. Then inhale more prana for the purpose of driving out the painful condition ; then exhale, holding the thought that you are driving out the pain. Alternate the two above mental commands, and with one exhalation stimulate the part and with the next drive out the pain. Keep this up for seven breaths, then practice the Cleansing Breath and rest a while. Then try it again until relief comes, which will be before long. Many pains will be found to be relieved before the seven breaths are finished. If the hand is placed over the painful part, you may get quicker results. Send the current of prana down the arm and into the painful part.
Lying in a relaxed condition, breathe rhythmically, and command that a good supply of prana be inhaled. With the exhalation, send the prana to the affected part for the purpose of stimulating it. Vary this occasionally by exhaling, with the mental command that the diseased condition be forced out and disappear. Use the hands in this exercise, passing them down the body from the head to the affected part. In using the hands in healing yourself or others always hold the mental image that the prana is flowing down the arm and through the finger tips into the body, thus reaching the affected part and healing it. Only general directions can be given here without taking up the several forms of disease in detail, but a little practice of the above exercise, varying it slightly to fit the conditions of the case, will produce wonderful results. You may wish to place both hands on the affected part, and then breathing rhythmically, holding the mental image that they are pumping prana into the diseased organ and part, stimulating it and driving out diseased conditions, as pumping into a pail of dirty water will drive out the latter and fill the bucket with fresh water. This last plan is very effective if the mental image of the pump is clearly held, the inhalation representing the lifting of the pump handle and the exhalation the actual pumping.
The main principle to remember here is that by rhythmic breathing and controlled thought you can absorb a considerable amount of prana, and are then able to pass it into the body of another person, stimulating weakened parts and organs and imparting health and driving out diseased conditions. You must first learn to form such a clear mental image of the desired condition that you will be able to actually feel the influx of prana, and the force running down your arms and out of your finger tips into the body of the patient. Breathe rhythmically a few times until the rhythm is fairly established, then place your hands upon the affected part of the body of the patient, letting them rest lightly over the part. Then follow the "pumping" process described in the preceding exercise (Self-Healing) and fill the patient full of prana until the diseased condition is driven out. Every once in a while raise the hands and "flicks' the fingers as if you were throwing off the diseased condition. It is well to do this occasionally and also to wash the hands after treatment, as otherwise you may take on a trace of the diseased condition of the patient. Also practice the Cleansing Breath several times after the treatment.During the treatment let the prana pour into the patient in one continuous stream, allowing yourself to be merely the pumping machinery connecting the patient with the universal supply of prana, and allowing it to flow freely through you. You need not work the hands vigorously, but simply enough that the prana freely reaches the affected parts.
The rhythmic breathing must be practiced frequently during the treatment, so as to keep the rhythm normal and to afford the prana a free passage. It is better to place the hands on the bare skin, but where this is not advisable or possible place them over the clothing. Vary above method occasionally during the treatment by stroking the body gently and softly with the finger tips, the fingers being kept slightly separated. This is very soothing to the patient. In cases of long standing you may find it helpful to give the mental command in words, such as" get out, get out," or" be strong, be strong," as the case may be, the words helping you to exercise the will more forcibly and to the point.
Vary these instructions to suit the needs of the case, and use your own judgement and inventive faculty. These general principles can be applied in many different ways. The above apparently simple instruction, if carefully studied and applied, will enable one to accomplish all that the leading "magnetic healers " are able to, although their " systems" are more or less cumbersome and complicated. They are using prana ignorantly and calling it "magnetism." If they would combine rhythmic breathing with their "magnetic" treatment they would double their efficiency.
Prana coloured by the thought of the sender may be projected to persons at a distance, who are willing to receive it, and healing work done in this way. The thought of the healer sends forth and colours the prana of the sender, and it flashes across space and finds lodgement in the psychic mechanism of the patient. Lt is unseen and passes through intervening obstacles and seeks the person attuned to receive it. In order to treat persons at a distance, you must form a mental image of them until you can feel yourself to be in rapport with them. This is a psychic process dependent upon the mental imagery of the healer. You can feel the sense of rapport when it is established, it manifesting in a sense of nearness. When rapport is established, say mentally to the distant patient, "I am sending you a supply of vital force or power, which will invigorate you and heal you." Then picture the prana as leaving your mind with each exhalation of rhythmic breath, and travelling across space instantaneously and reaching the patient and healing him. It is not necessary to fix a certain time for treatment, although you may do so if you wish. The receptive condition of the patient, as he is expecting and opening himself up to your psychic force, attunes him to receive your vibrations whenever you may send them.
Thoughts may be projected by following the last mentioned method (Distant Healing) and others will feel their effect, it being remembered always that no evil thought can ever injure another person whose thoughts are good. Good thoughts are always positive to bad ones, and bad ones always negative to good ones. One can, however, excite the interest and attention of another by sending him thought waves in this way, charging the prana with the message he wishes to convey. RECHARGING YOURSELF. If you feel that your vital energy is at a low ebb, and that you need to store up a new supply quickly, the best plan is to place the feet close together (side by side, of course) and to lock the fingers of both hands in any way that seems the most comfortable. This closes the circuit, as it were, and prevents any escape of prana through the extremities, Then breathe rhythmically a few times, and you will feel the effect of the recharging.
THE GRAND PSYCHIC BREATH.
The following exercise has been given a Sanskrit term of which the above is a general equivalent It requires a great deal of practice in the line of rhythmic breathing and mental imagery (see above). This exercise will fill the entire system with prana, and the student will emerge from it with every bone, muscle, nerve, cell, tissue, organ and part energised and attuned by the prana and the rhythm of the breath. It is a general housecleaning of the system, and if practised carefully you will feel as if you have been given a new body, freshly created, from the crown of his head to the tips of his toes.
The Oriental philosophies teach that man has many faculties which are at present in a dormant state, but which will become unfolded as the race progresses. They also teach that man, by the proper effort of the will, aided by favourable conditions, may aid in the unfoldment of these spiritual faculties, and develop them much sooner than in the ordinary process of evolution. In other words, one may even now develop spiritual powers of consciousness which will not become the common property of the race until after long ages of gradual development under the law of evolution. In all of the exercises directed toward this end, rhythmic breathing plays an important part. There is of course no mystic property in the breath itself which produces such wonderful results, but the rhythm produced by the Yogi breath is such as to bring the whole system, including the brain, under perfect control, and in perfect harmony, and by this means, the most perfect condition is obtained for the unfoldment of these latent faculties.
Both of the exercises given below are simple, and consist of mental images firmly held, accompanied with rhythmic breathing. You should not expect too much at the start, but continue to work at the exercises and be content to develop as does the flower, from seed to blossom.
The real Self is not the body or even the mind of man. These things are but a part of his personality, the lesser self. The real Self is independent of the body, which it inhabits, and is even independent of the mechanism of the mind, which it uses as an instrument. The real Self is a drop from the Divine Ocean, and is eternal and indestructible. It cannot die or be annihilated, and no matter what becomes of the body, the real Self still exists. It is the Soul. Do not think of your Soul as a thing apart from you, for YOU are the Soul, and the body is the unreal and transitory part of you which is changing in material every day, and which you will some day discard. You may develop the faculties so at to be conscious of the reality of the Soul, and its independence of the body.
-Place your body in a relaxed, reclining position. Breathe rhythmically, and meditate upon the real Self, thinking of yourself as an entity independent of the body, although inhabiting it and being able to leave it at will. Think of yourself, not as the body, but as a spirit, and of your body as but a shell, useful and comfortable but not a part of the real You. Think of yourself as an independent being, using the body only as a convenience. While meditating, ignore the body entirely, and you will find that you will often become almost entirely unconscious of it, and will seem to be out of the body to which you may return when you are through with the exercise.If persisted with, this exercise will give a wonderful sense of the reality of the Soul, and will make you seem almost independent of the body.
THE UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS.
The Spirit in man, which is the highest manifestation of his Soul, is a drop in the ocean of Spirit, apparently separate and distinct, but yet really in touch with the ocean itself, and with every other drop in it. As man unfolds in spiritual consciousness he becomes more and more aware of his relation to the Universal Spirit, or Universal Mind as some term it. He feels at times as if he were almost at-one-ment with it, and then again he loses the sense of contact and relationship. This state of Universal Consciousness can be attained by meditation and rhythmic breathing. The following exercise will be found to do much toward developing the Universal Consciousness providing you stick to it!
Place your body in a reclining, relaxed position. Breathe rhythmically, and meditate upon your relationship with the Universal Mind of which you are but an atom. Think of yourself as being in touch with All, and at-one-ment with All. See All as One, and your Soul as a part of that One. Feel that you are receiving the vibrations from the great Universal Mind, and are partaking of its power and strength and wisdom. The two following lines of meditation may be followed.
This exercise leaves with those who have practised it a new-found sense of strength, power and wisdom, and a feeling of spiritual exaltation and bliss. It must be practised only in a serious, reverential mood, and must not be approached triflingly or lightly.
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