The Tibetan Yoga of Breath: Breathing Practices for Healing the Body and Cultivating Wisdom

The Tibetan Yoga of Breath: Breathing Practices for Healing the Body and Cultivating Wisdom by Anyen Rinpoche, Allison Choying Zangmo

Book: The Tibetan Yoga of Breath: Breathing Practices for Healing the Body and Cultivating Wisdom by Anyen Rinpoche, Allison Choying Zangmo Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anyen Rinpoche, Allison Choying Zangmo
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    The Wind of Space. We have already talked about the straight spine being a very crucial part of the Seven-Point Posture. In addition to allowing the life-force wind to enter the central channel, we also said it gives the mind a joyous and awakened feeling. With regard to the five elements, this aspect of the posture binds the wind of the space element.
    The Wind of Water. Touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth binds the wind of the water element.
    The Wind of Wind. Setting the shoulders back in the manner of a vulture’s wings binds the wind of the wind element.
    The Wind of Earth. Placing the hands either in vajra fists or palms down on the thighs binds the wind of the earth element.
    The Wind of Fire. Slightly tucking the neck binds the wind of the fire element.
     
    When we take the sum of all of these actions together, we bind the five root wind energies, and then the five branch or secondary wind energies related to the five elements based on our posture.
    P RACTICING Y OGA OF W IND AND M IND
     
    As a general note, wind energy practice is best done early in the morning before we have eaten. Even if we do not practice in the early morning, we should allow our food to digest for an hour or two before we start to practice.
    After practicing physical yoga for fifteen to twenty minutes, we sit down in the Seven-Point Posture. Before continuing, we should take a moment to notice our intention. Meditation should always begin with a compassionate wish to help all sentient beings, including ourselves. So if that wish is absent at first, we should cultivate it by thinking, “May the result of this practice be that I am able to love and support others selflessly.” In Mahayana Buddhism, we call this wish to benefit all beings everywhere “generating the mind of bodhichitta.” Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means “enlightened mind.”
    Now that we have engaged in some physical movement, cultivated our intention, and sat in the proper posture, we will engage in an exercise that helps us to dispel the karmic wind energy from the body. This breath work can be the gateway to our sitting practice. We can use it once daily or each time we sit down to practice. It is called the Nine Cycles of Inhalation and Exhalation .
    The nine cycles are broken up into three groups of three breaths. The first six sets of inhalations and exhalations are done using alternating nostrils. The mouth remains closed the entire time and we breathe only through the nose. As a general note, the teachings on wind energy training and Yantra Yoga emphasize breathing through the nostrils during the entire practice session. Unless we are given specific, personal instruction by a master on how and when to breathe through the mouth, we should always breathe through the nose when we practice wind energy training.
    Western medical researchers have found a variety of benefits that come from breathing through the nostrils rather than the mouth. First, breathing through the nostrils results in more oxygen being absorbed into the arteries. This occurs because nitric oxide is made by our nose and sinus membranes and carried into the lungs during nostril breathing. Nitric oxide relaxes and widens the arteries, enabling them to absorb more oxygen. This gas, when inhaled even in small amounts into the lungs, can increase oxygen absorption significantly. 1 The air we inhale through ournose is also humidified and warmed, which allows for better oxygen–carbon dioxide exchange. 2
    Nostril breathing also increases the absorption of oxygen because of the resistance provided by the act of exhaling through the nasal passages. Since the air moves more slowly than it would if exhaled through the mouth, it spends more time in the lungs, and therefore more oxygen is absorbed. This resistance during the act of exhaling is exercise for the lungs, increasing their efficiency.
    Finally, because nostril breathing prolongs exhalation, it stimulates the vagus nerve.

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