Attend to the Breath, Part 2: Energetics

Welcome back Kerry Porter Wills. Today’s post is the second in a series on breath. If you missed the first, see Attend to the Breath, Part 1.

Now that you have been watching your breath since that last post of mine (you have, haven’t you?) we will have the context for discussing the energetics of breath.

First however, lemme get this disclaimer out of the way: I am keeping our discussions pretty basic as this is a complex subject and I have but a blog post to address it. I don’t want to talk around the honey jar when we could be eating honey 🙂 Take these concepts and PLAY WITH THEM.

There is a framework from Ayurveda that becomes a helpful aid in understanding what is happening in our systems when we breathe: brmhana and langhana. The breakdown goes like this:

In any situation where we have to resist the pull of gravity, we have to create support for those postures and actions. For example, any standing pose we practice will involve core support, and any kind of stabilization at the core will move the shape change of breathing toward the chest. Stabilization in one area will require mobilization somewhere else (if you want to continue breathing, that is). Test this idea by coming into any kind of balance pose and taking a big ol’ belly breath… see what happens. This quality is called brmhana.

Brmhana is associated with more rib cage and chest expansion on inhale, which moves us toward spinal extension, which is, in essence, an INHALE. It’s about creating support inside the system.

The opposite of brmhana is langhana. As you may have noticed in the video from my last post, the model was lying down in the breath awareness practice. You may have noticed that the hand on his belly was getting a lot more action than the hand on his chest. Belly breathing is langhana energetics. It is associated with cooling, relaxing, more muscularly passive postures and spinal flexion. EXHALE. It’s about receiving support.

There are postures that would easily fall into one category or the other (balance poses on one end; savasana on the other end) but many will fall in the middle somewhere. This frame work, brmhana/langhana, is just a way for us to talk about how our breath can change with the needs of the moment…in posture which is everywhere and all the time.

If you haven’t started your breath awareness practice, now’s the time. The key point: the breath will take on many shape changing patterns and the more of them we have access to (consciously and unconsciously), the more options we have for creating functional and interesting somatic geometries. Watch the video below where I demonstrate see-saw breath.

Stay tuned for more on breathing from Kerry.

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  1. Attend to the Breath Part 3: Mechanics « Beerasana - December 17, 2012

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