The importance of breathing technique and control
As psions when considering the physical domain we are always looking to interact with it in such a way that it does not distract the focus of the soul. Meditation is our most valuable skill as psions and to operate understanding this idea we want to be able to bring our body into a meditative state such that our body does not distract us. There are many ways to train our bodies in this way such as considering our diet, exercise, and behaviour in daily life, but the biggest obstacle in meditation is often the use of proper meditative breathing technique. In the following article we will cover the respiratory mechanism and the proper use of breathing.
The Respiratory Mechanism
Breathing is one of the first things you do when born and it is the last action you take before death. Between these two points the ability to breath properly is of vital importance and affects the total health of the body. A deficiency in the ability to properly acquire oxygen for use in the body greatly affects the physical status as well as the mental. In keeping with the original idea of this article it is necessary to keep the body and the brain sufficiently healthy so that it does not become a distraction.
The lungs are a both voluntarily and involuntarily controlled, in that you can control the speed and depth of your breathing if you want but will continue to breathe should you lose focus of it. The main muscle of respiration, the respiratory diaphragm, is like any other muscle, when trained properly it is able to preform with greater ability. Aside from simply providing the mechanical action to bring air into the lungs the respiratory diaphragm has a number of other vital functions.
Anatomically the respiratory diaphragm is connected to the pleura (connective tissue surrounding lungs), the pericardium (connective tissue surrounding the heart), and below it to the abdominal viscera. Of equal importance a number of nervous and vascular structures pass through the respiratory diaphragm, to name a few; The descending aorta, the vena cava, the vagus nerve, and the thoracic duct. Together the previously named structures are responsible for properly supplying almost all vital structures/functions of the trunk and lower limbs, and all of these have direct attachment to the respiratory diaphragm.
The respiratory diaphragm is in constant motion and all the time it's action massages the viscera, conditions the heart and lungs, and allows for proper passage of the nervous and vascular (blood supplying/draining) structures that pass through it. If the respiratory diaphragm is not working properly, if it is not or cannot move as it is supposed to, than neither can anything attached to it (the heart, lungs, and upper abdominal viscera). This is part of the reason those who practice meditation and physical exercise that promotes deep, slow breathing (yoga, qigong, etc) are able to achieve and sustain a much greater level of health.
As stated previously the respiratory diaphragm is both a voluntary and involuntary mechanism. In mediation this voluntary/involuntary relationship can be easily utilized for beneficial results. Motor learning and the Facilitation concept are highly developed concepts that are very important to understanding proper methods of breathing however they are not specifically necessary to the practicing psion to have knowledge of. What these two concepts would say on the subject of breathing though is that the way we practice breathing voluntarily will be carried over and developed as reflex when we involuntarily breath and that this is more likely occur the more it is done. Simply; The more you breath well the more you will breath well.
Proper Breathing Technique
There are many, many different ways of performing breathing in meditation. Many breathing techniques often claim the foundations of the technique on internal energetic mechanisms or combative training. The Dynamic Psi paradigm does not subscribe to the belief in internal energetic mechanisms like other styles and though not against martial training does not use it as a basis for breathing technique. For this reason when breathing and meditating in the Dynamic Psi paradigm we will use whatever works best for the individual practitioner.
Like any practice though there will be certain principles that can be followed for anyone to get the best out of their practice. The following simple concepts are what the author feels are most important to proper breathing technique for anyone;
Then forget about it and continue with the mediation.
These are simple enough concepts for anyone to follow and be mindful of during meditation but one practice that greatly helps with breathing slowly and deeply is a practice known as 'stomach breathing'. Stomach breathing is widely practiced by a number of different disciplines and is often known as 'embryonic breathing' in qigong. Regardless of the relation to other styles we know for a fact that this practice allows for a greater amount of air to be inhaled, more of the lung to be properly used, and conditions the respiratory diaphragm in a better way than normal 'chest breathing'.
If you have never been introduced to stomach breathing, or have never done it, simply take as deep a breath in as you can without letting your shoulders move. When you do this you body is forced to allow you abdominal muscles to move outwards so that the respiratory diaphragm can contract down further which makes the lungs bigger and bring in more air. Stomach breathing does take some practice to get used to but, as stated previously, the more you do it the more well you will be able to do it.
Going over these principles is one of the best ways to set up continuous proper breathing for a lengthy mediation. As well when we begin our meditation it is useful to think about and put these principles into practice as it sets a proper mental state that is valuable during the mediation.
Regular practice and expectation of success, as always, is most important in developing any skill.