People often ask me: “What is the single best exercise to practice—what is the most important technique we need to master?”
Actually, there are three basic skills I think every Breathworker needs to learn—three things I teach to just about everyone who comes to me for Breathwork training.
The first skill is Breath Awareness: I teach people to become more conscious of their breathing. You can call this mindfulness training—meditation. Simply observe the breath. Sense it, feel it, watch it, listen to it. Tune into the details of your breathing.
What feelings and sensations occur when you breathe? What moves when you breathe? Is your breathing quick and shallow or slow and deep? What muscles do you use? Are the inhales longer than the exhales, or vice-versa? Are there pauses in the breath?
The idea is to just sit and turn your attention to the breath. Look for details in the breathing. Then you can take the practice into your everyday life. Observe how you breathe in different situations and circumstances.
How do you breathe when you are upset or in pain? How do you breathe when you are peaceful and calm? How do you breathe when someone insults you, or praises you? How do you breathe when you are listening to music?
How do you breathe when driving your car—or when you are stuck in traffic? How do you breathe when you are confused, drowsy, excited, etc.? How do you breathe when you are trying to solve a math problem? How do you breathe when you are having sex?
Begin to notice how your breathing pattern change according to your psychological, emotional or physiological state. Begin to notice when it is affected by different thoughts and feelings and activities, by the food you eat, and by other people’s energy.
This is Breath Awareness. It’s the first basic skill: becoming more aware of your breathing. Notice it, listen to it, watch it, sense it. Don’t breathe in any certain way. Let it come and go by itself. Develop the habit of witnessing. Meditate on your breathing. The more breath awareness you have, the more benefit you will get from Breathwork.
The second skill is “Engaging the Exhale.” This means we practice using the exhale to relax—to trigger relaxation. We practice releasing the breath. It’s the skill of letting go. Master the art of letting go of the exhale go. Learn to set the breath free, to reflexively release it.
This second skill looks and sounds and feels like an exaggerated sigh of relief. The idea is to not control the exhale, but instead to let it go quickly and completely.
If you can’t let go of your exhale—fully and freely, quickly and completely—then don’t be surprised if you can’t let go of pain. Don’t be surprised if you can’t let go of fear or anxiety. Don’t be surprised if you can’t let go of thoughts that are going around in your head, keeping you stuck or obsessing.
However, when you master the skill of letting go of the exhale, you will surprise yourself at how easily you can let go of many other things on many other levels.
It helps to take a full, deep, expansive inhale in order to trigger a powerful reflexive release on the exhale. And that leads us to the third skill.
The third skill is Conscious Breathing or Breath Control. Here, we explore and experiment; we play with the breath. We gently test the range and the limits of our breathing. We practice giving the breath a certain pattern, a certain quality; or we breathe with a certain intention.
We practice breathing slowly as well as quickly. We practice breathing thru the nose as well as thru the mouth. We practice breathing high in the chest as well as low in the belly. We discover what feels easy, natural, or automatic; and what feels difficult, requires focus, or takes effort.
We can add visualization, or we can combine breathing and movement. We can also begin to practice some advanced techniques, like “Connected Breathing.” This means taking away the pauses between the breaths. It means circulating the breath—getting it to turn like a wheel. This is a very powerful breathing technique that I believe everyone needs to learn.
So, those are the three basic skills:
1. Breath Awareness
3. Breath Control.
They are the three pillars of breathwork. You master them and then you build on them.
So, what is the most important technique? What is the best thing to practice?
1. Practice observing your breath.
Do some “breath watching.”
Tune into the details of your breathing.
2. Practice engaging the exhale
Learn to release the breathing mechanism.
Get good at letting go, at relaxation.
3. Practice conscious breathing.
Breathe deliberately, in a way that is interesting, challenging, or simply feels good.
Dan Brulé has studied and practiced breathwork with more than 80,000 people in over 40 countries since 1976. His travel and teaching schedule is posted at www.breathmastery.com.