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Tantric Exercises: The Basic Breath

Posted Jan 27 2009 7:15pm
I was going through my bookshelves and ran across a binder I had of article printouts of a website I had started to create in 1999. I started it at the suggestion of this guy who I will write about some day. The only thing I can think to title the future post is “The Incredible Asshole.” Because he is one. He did not think of me in that way, however, and still tries to contact me about once a year. And still gets the wrath of Gillette every time. He called me his his guru (see my eyeballs rolling with gag reflex). In the end I was and continue to be very unguru like to him, hehehe. I am a patient person, I am an extremely understanding and compassionate person. But if I have repeatedly warned you and you still choose your current path of fucking with me, I turn into very scary raging Italian Leo Kali.

But even though we did not work out well, I did have fun rereading what I had written for the site. I called it TantraSpirit. It was going to be a resource site for learning, networking and coaching. I even had visions of having it be a meeting place for Dakini workers and people wanting to learn the practices.

When I found them, I thought it would be fun to edit and post some of the writings in a series of articles from time to time so they get online somewhere somehow.

Tantric Sexual Exercises: The Breath

The first exercises to learn when doing Tantra are to learn deep belly breathing, contracting the PC pump and doing the pelvic rock. These form the base of all other Tantric exercises. To be a Tantric master or masterette you "should" get to the point where these are ingrained in the body and done without thought. I would suggest that first you master them individually then put them together. This post will concentrate on the basic breath as it is the beginning (and the end, but that's more about philosophy not practice).

To breathe Tantrically is the way we are biologically wired to breathe. If you watch a baby, they breathe deeply into their bellies. When they breathe in the belly goes out, then when they exhale, their bellies go in. Hardly anyone is able to maintain this sort of breathing without some sort of training (singers, swimmers, some musicians, meditators, etc.). Most people have had enough emotional trauma by the age of three or four to be breathing incorrectly. When someone has pain or fear, the first thing they do is hold their breath. Then the flight or fight response kicks in and they breathe high in the chest. Over time, the body starts breathing like this all the time because of habit and a continual feedback loop of stress. When you breathe deeply and correctly, you automatically stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and your whole body gets to experience health and ease. Blood pressure drops, muscles relax, lungs work fully, mind relaxes.

You would be amazed at how difficult it can be to breathe correctly. Some people cannot feel their bodies. If you are one of these people don't give up, just keep trying and with practice you will get it. You want to really concentrate on taking a slow full breath in. Expand your belly, give room for your lungs to expand fully. Then when you want to exhale, just relax. Again, this may sound easy, but if you experience difficulty in isolating your belly and getting it to go out on the inhale lie down on the floor on your back. Put your hands on your stomach or a book or something so your awareness has somewhere to concentrate the sensation on.

When I was coaching I always suggested starting any practice slowly so that you actually end up doing it. For most people an hour commitment every day just seems too difficult so they never begin. But if you start with three or four minutes a day, just lying in your bed before getting up, breathing deeply and consciously, you might actually keep doing it for more than two days. Then the more you do it, the more desire you have to remember to breathe this way. As time goes by you might want to more of it in the morning because it feels so good. You might even start to think of it in the middle of the day and check in on your body to see if you are breathing deeply or not.

It may take awhile for your body to relearn how to breathe like this all the time. It took me two years before I didn't have to consciously watch my breath. Then one day I found I was just breathing deeply in my belly without knowing it. I still find myself reverting back to constricted chest breathing in times of stress and still have to remember to breathe correctly. Sometimes in those stresstimes (like the past two years for example) I forget for a few days, then notice I feel sluggish and have to spend time retraining. It's so easy to revert.

Many people find that when they do start to pay attention to their breath that they learn much about their body. When I first started doing this, I learned that I hold at the inhale until I am almost nauseous. Then I finally release. Some people don't inhale for awhile after the exhale. People who work with body centered forms of emotional work have linked all sorts of psychological associations with people and their breathing patterns. If you have an interest in this check out Gay and Katie Hendricks. In particular Gay has written a number of books on the breath and its power to heal. You can find them on Amazon.

This deep belly breathing is used in many practices and processes. If you do this breath and focus fully on it while trying your best to clear your mind, you will be meditating. It's the same breath used in emotional release breathwork (Rebirthing, Radiance, Holotropic), the same for yoga. It is used in advanced Tantric sexual practices and is the base breath for more advanced yogic breathing techniques called pranayamas.

And if you never want to use it for any of this stuff, it is still a great thing to remember. I used to suggest what I called "the seven breath." For this you do the deep belly breath in to the slow count of seven, hold for seven, exhale for seven. Do it seven times. Every time I do this the whole world looks better. It calms me, makes my mind more focused, stress goes down, and problems don't seem as vital or tragic as they did five minutes ago. I get feedback from people that it helps them, too.

And when all else fails (or as a suggestion to motivate anyone who will try anything if it involves sex) try it in sex sometime. Just like it can change your perceptions of the world around you during the middle of the day, if you do the seven breaths alone or, preferably, with your partner sex feels different, too.
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