Monday, October 23, 2006

Stop, You’re Breathing All Wrong!

All right, I admit that’s a bit of an overstatement. You must be doing something right in the oxygen department, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

However, thanks to Matt Furey, I’ve learned a method of taking this automatic, necessary action and making it more effective.

I’d been feeling guilty again lately, for neglecting both Matt and Claude Bristol. (Remember him? The author of The Magic of Believing?) Well, Bristol is long dead, so I really don’t need to feel any guilt over him, but there’s just something about Matt – call it his intimidating exterior – that makes you feel guilty about neglecting his teachings, whether you want to or not. Curiously, on the programs I’ve listened to or watched to date, he has a far more soft-spoken manner than one might expect. (I know I was expecting the voice and manner of a Marine drill sergeant when I plugged in my first Fure-Cat CD.) That manner is particularly effective on Matt’s DVD titled “Dynamic Deep Breathing.”

Matt has more than once quoted his idol, world champion wrestler Martin “Farmer” Burns (1861-1937), as saying that “Deep breathing alone has made many a weak man strong, and many a sick man well.” Well, I thought, that is a strong statement! Just what is it about deep breathing that makes it so beneficial to the human body?

One Web article notes that it can increase our vitality and promote relaxation. “When our breathing is full and deep,” says author and Healing Tao instructor Dennis Lewis, “the diaphragm moves through its entire range downward to massage the liver, stomach, and other organs and tissues below it, and upward to massage the heart.” Sounds good. When done properly, he adds, the diaphragm’s upward and downward movements, combined with the inward/outward movements of our belly, ribcage and lower back, “help to massage and detoxify our inner organs, promote blood flow…and pump the lymph more efficiently through our lymphatic system.”

On another level, Farmer Burns promoted the use of deep breathing techniques as an aid to reducing abdominal fat and improving digestion. There’s more to be said on the subject, but in the interest of space I’ll direct you to some useful Web sites at the end of this entry. In the meantime, let’s take a look at Matt Furey’s “Dynamic Deep Breathing,” which he combines with goal visualization for added effectiveness.

To start, Matt and I stood with our feet shoulder-width apart, our hands at our sides, looking straight ahead, but with a soft focus. Then he instructed me to lower my body slightly, with pelvis tucked in and shoulders dropped. Got that? Comfortable? Okay. Now. Inhale and exhale deeply. As you inhale, imagine that you are sucking in a white cloud of energy all the way down to your feet. Then exhale a “dark cloud of negative energy.” As you inhale, repeat to yourself, “Power. Power.” I was too busy breathing along with Matt to actually count the repetitions, but I believe there were probably about ten. If you, like me, experience a little dizziness at first from the unaccustomed oxygen rush, just do however many you’re comfortable with.

Step Two – On your next inhalation/exhalation, imagine “a big yellow sun” in your solar plexus (for all us non-medical types, that’s the pit of your stomach). As you do this round, keep repeating “Power” to yourself while picturing that sun radiating its warmth throughout your body as “positive healing energy.” Personally, I plan to do this before my next job interview!

On to Step Three! Lift your hands to chest level, palms facing out. Again, inhale a cloud of white positive energy, and exhale negative energy, in whatever form it takes within your life. As you exhale, push your hands away from you in a gesture of rejecting negativity. As you inhale, pull your hands back in.

How do you feel? I confess that by this time, with my initial dizziness past, I was starting to experience quite a pleasant sense of overall well-being!

But we’re not done yet. For your next round, imagine that you’re pushing two strong pillars away from you on the exhalation. What do those pillars represent to you? (This is Treader Lucie asking, not Matt.) Anger? Resentment? Bitterness? Push ’em away! You don’t need them!

Step Five – Now visualize those pillars as boulders over your head. What do you do with them? Push them up towards the heavens as you exhale. (Treader Lucie says: Those who are religious might like to imagine that they are releasing their burdens to God.) Next, bring your arms up to chest level, palms facing the floor. Down on the exhale, up on the inhale. You say those burdens are trying to rise up from the floor to overwhelm you? Push ’em back down like balloons.

Step Seven – Stretch your arms out with your palms up. Lift your arms on the inhale, crossing your palms overhead, then bring your arms down on the exhale. Feel like a windmill? Good! So do I!

Still with me? Not dizzy, are you? If so, take a breather (if you’ll pardon the pun). I had to hit the pause button once or twice myself. You don’t know you’re a shallow breather until you focus on not being one!

Okay, back to Step Eight. This time, raise your arms to chest level, about a foot apart, as if you’re holding a basketball. Since Matt instructed me to then imagine that I was “separating heaven from earth,” I found it helpful to picture a globe in my hands. As you inhale, lift one arm up with the palm facing outward, and let the other arm drop, with the palm facing downward. Repeat and switch the direction of your arms on each repetition. Visualize energy being pushed from your palms.

Step Nine – Imagine that you’re embracing a giant cauldron (Harry Potter fans will no doubt find this easy), or hugging a giant oak tree (environmentalists will like this). “Inhale into the little finger of one hand, then into the little finger of the other hand.” (Focus and imagination are definitely an asset here!)

Hang in there, we’re almost to the finish line! Now it’s time to practice your “inner smile.” I have to confess that although I've always been possessed of an active imagination, this one was a bit of a challenge. At any rate, here we go. Imagine a smiley face in your eyeballs. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Smile into the point between your brows, then into each part of your face. Smile into your neck and throat, your heart and solar plexus, your navel, your sexual center (no jokes, please), your arms and legs, your shoulders and back.

How do you feel now? Warm? Positive? Peaceful? Energized? A little bit of all the above? Or are you wondering when we’re going to get around to the goal visualization? Wonder no further, because here it is. Ready? Okay. Visualize a goal you’d like to achieve in front of you. “Inhale into that goal” instead of into your body. (Yep, it was a little tricky for me, too.) Now exhale into it. All your energy is now flowing into that imagined image. As you breathe, repeat the goal to yourself. Focus, focus! Good work!

Step 12. “Smile into the goal so that the energy exchanged between yourself and your vision is one of happiness and harmony.” That may sound a little out there, but hey, Matt does it and it works for him, so give it a try. Add a shot of enthusiasm and desire to your breathing – as Matt likes to quote, courtesy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” And aren’t your goals worthy of being called great? Well, they’re great to you, aren’t they? Feel the excitement that you’ll experience when you’ve achieved them.

Now let’s wrap up with Step 13. Inhale and bring your hands to your navel, right over left. As you inhale, gather all the energy you’ve created into a small egg or marble. Matt doesn’t add this, but I chose to then move my hands to my heart, picturing myself depositing the egg of my dreams there, safe and sound. Exhale...and you’re done!

Well, not quite. Now is a good time to sit down with your goals in front of you in written form, as you’ll find yourself more inspired to tackle them. Keep this up on a regular basis, Matt says, and you won’t be the same person. While these breathing exercises can be done at any time – perhaps you might want to do a few at work, as you’re able, if you’re experiencing a stressful day and need to regroup – I agree with Matt that they’re a good preparation for the day ahead if done first thing in the morning, and that they’ll help your goals sink into your subconscious, where they can be worked on while you sleep, if done before retiring.

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Want to learn more about the benefits of deep breathing, not to mention tips for how to really do it correctly? Check out these Web sites:

And until we meet again…breathe deeply as you Keep on Treading!

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