Ecstatic Breathing – Birthing the Breath

This week I was privileged to view a video that stunned me with its beauty and sacredness.  If you go to the dictionary, ecstatic is described as “in a trance like state of great rapture or delight.  Showing or feeling great enthusiasm.  And….a person who has periods of intense trance like joy”.

In this video you will view a woman giving birth in the most sacred and natural of ways – the way in which it was meant to be.  The most important component in these hours of “labor” was breath, and the sounding that birthed from the breath.  There is no doubt that there is pain involved as you watch this beautiful woman in her birthing passage, yet it is the breath that washes the pain through and expands the stressful process of birthing through “sounding out breath” into an ecstatic state.

I invite you to watch this video now and then come back to see what you can do to practice “sounding out” your breath.

Dr. Chris Northrup posted this link on her twitter feed.  It’s a video of a woman going through labor and birth – an ecstatic birth experience.  The video is 18 minutes long.  I say take the time to watch the entire video.  It is worth every moment spent whether you have ever given birth or not.

You’ll find it here:

Sounding Out Breath Practice:
Last week we talked about how the breath is such an integral part of being able to sing with your full being and voice.  A big part of the healing power of singing, sounding, and chanting is that they work to regulate our breathing. When we sing, whatever the words of the song, we tend to “sound the breath out” until it’s time to inhale. The more often we sing, the better our breathing as it expands our capacity to not only bring in more life giving breath, but also intimately supports the letting go within the exhale.

Chanting adds to this the inherent power of certain sounds. Sounding the breath out with ooooommmm has long been practiced to deepen meditative states. And aaaahhhh, the sound that people often make when feeling pleasure or satisfaction, can be used to intentionally generate healing energy in the body.  This sounding out breathing also “turns on” the parasympathetic system in the body which signals the relaxation response, and stimulates the “feel good” chemicals of the endorphin system.

PRACTICE:  With a long slow inhale
 let the air out through the mouth with a
 long sustained sound of aaaaaahhhhhh . . .
Breathe all the way out, until it’s time to inhale
.  Then breathe in through the nose a long slow inhale
 and sound the breath all the way out
 with a long sustained sound of aaaaaahhhhhh . . .Pause for a few moments noticing any feelings or sensations.
Now continue for several more breaths,
 breathing in through the nose, 
filling yourself with energy, and sound out the breath
 with a long, gentle aaaaaahhhhhh . . .

then experiment with a fuller, more powerful aaaaahhhhhhh….changing the texture, sound, and vibration as you feel so moved.

Practice this daily whenever you feel stress or you feel “stuck”.  Breathe into the stress or the frustration and release it with a long slow exhale –  sounding whenever you are able, and experimenting with types of sounds and perhaps movement.  This will become an automatic response to stressful or difficult situations as they happen – and can lead you into a place of ecstatic breath.  Enjoy the moments…birth the breath…    


Songs Are Thoughts Sung With The Breath

“Songs are thoughts sung with the breath when people are moved by great forces and ordinary speech no longer suffices”.

“There are so many occasions in one’s life when a joy or a sorrow is felt in such a way that the desire comes to sing. All my being is songs, and I sing as I draw breath.”

— Orpingalik  (Inuit poet and shaman)

From the beginning of time humans sang their stories.  Sacred, playful, joyous, sensual, blues, gospel, or wild – song has woven our history on this planet.  It was at a “Song Weavers” event last weekend that I realized that it is rare that I break out in song myself, and certainly don’t sing with my friends or my community.  It was also at this event that I discovered how tight my singing voice actually was.  Yet, within the space of a couple of hours I also realized how easily, within the company of others, that voice can be released and played with.

The video below instructs us on how to breathe for singing.  Watch and listen carefully and notice that this breath strengthens and expands our diaphragm muscles and relaxes the upper chest, neck and facial muscles –  secondary breathing muscles that are often used in tight, contracted, chest breathing and stressful situations.   The emphasis on lengthening the exhale with the hissss sound allows us to find our ground of being, relaxed voice, and our full expression.  This also builds and expands our capacity for breath and thus for LIFE.  Practice this and then let loose with a song, a sound, a tone!

P.S.  For those of you that are Carol King/James Taylor lovers here is a treat – they are back together and are touring.  Not only do they love to sing the “hits” –  we love to sing along with them!

Breathing Space of the Heart

Writing “morning pages”, a practice taught by Julia Cameron, I was lead to reflect this morning on the power of coming from our hearts.  This leads us to the awareness practice of remembering who we are in each moment and is perhaps why we are placed here in this lifetime. The next steps from here are then to take conscious action from that place.

What an adventure to move through all the feelings and experiences of our lives to keep coming back to “remembering who we are”.  Such a simple concept – but one which takes a lifetime (or many) to practice.  The last few days everything that has come in to me speaks to this practice and beckons me to share with you.

Singing last night with a community of “song weavers” I remembered that it is through story, movement, and song shared that we connect and find not only joy, but answers to the challenges that light up our lives.  It brings us back to tribal/community connection, centers us in the miracle of our bodies,  expands our breath and vitality, and brings us back to “ourselves”.

The breathing space of the heart is a space rich with possibilities, ripe with adventure, and resplendent with a wealth of opportunities to “remember who you are”.  I leave you with a Rumi poem that touched me this week.

Lovers and men of intellect cannot mix.
How can you mix the broken with the unbroken?
Cautious men of intellect shrink back from a dead ant.
Lovers, completely carefree, trample down the dragons.
The intellect says, “The six directions are limits. There is no way out.”
Love says, “There is a way.  I have traveled it thousands of times”.
The intellect saw a market and started to haggle.
Love saw thousands of markets beyond this market.



Breath of Joy!

What if the breath was a pathway to choose joy?  There is a very old Chinese saying that says, “One who half breathes, half lives.”   When you are feeling fatigue, lethargy, slight depression, or inability to focus have you ever just done a Breath Check?  You may find that your breathing has some restrictions. The good news is that you can chose to change that in any moment!

Shallow, upper chest, or restricted breathing represents so many things.  It is a pattern in alignment with restriction, limitation, and shutting down on life – YOUR LIFE!

Have you ever held your nose and tried to taste something?  Or maybe you did that when you were young and your parents wanted you to eat something that you didn’t want to eat…so you held your nose and ate it….because you couldn’t taste it right?!

Shutting down on the breath shuts down more than just the breath.  It obviously impacts your health and aliveness, but it also shuts down your joy and pleasure of living,  being in the moment, your creativity, and your ability to “taste life”.

Here is a simple video that gives you a tool to shift what I call “low life breathing” into “breathing in creative joy”.  Use it often!


BREATHING SPACES – Within and Without

Breathing is one of the simplest things in the world.  We breathe in, we breathe out.  When we breathe with real freedom, we neither grasp for or hold on to the breath.  No effort is required to pull the breath in or to push the breath out.  Given the simplicity of breathing one would think it was the easiest thing to do in the world.  However, if it were truly so easy there would be few unhappy or unhealthy people in the world.  To become a welcome vessel for the breath is to live life without trying to control, grasp, or push away.  And how easy is this?  The process of breathing is the most accurate metaphor we have for the way that we personally approach life, how we live our lives, and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings us.”

–   Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book, pg 5

Did you know that from birth at the first breath, you take approximately 7,000 breaths each day which over a lifetime totals about 500 million breaths.  In your final moments you exhale for the last time and the breath defines that moment.  What will we do with these approximately 500 million opportunities in a lifetime to live our life fully?

There is a wise Chinese proverb that states, “Life is in the breath.  One who half breathes, half lives.”

We all are breathing in some fashion, even when we are not aware of our breath, but the normal patterns of breathing are usually shallow, restricted and contain many holding patterns.  These reflect deep imbalances in our systems.  When our breathing patterns are weak, we may have low energy and find ourselves easily fatigued and more emotionally stressed.  When our breathing patterns are deep and strong, we have increased endurance, stamina, and a sense of well being.

Sometimes we can have difficulty with our breathing because of physiological processes that we have set in motion by the way we have treated our bodies over the years, or we can have emotional holding patterns that literally have us “stop breathing” or “hold our breath”.  Sometimes it is both of these things intimately connected that contribute to our not breathing – not living – as fully as we are meant to.

Last week I came in contact with a woman who has been a smoker in her life.  She arrived at our clinic with a fairly severe upper respiratory challenge.  There is a special machine called an oximeter that measures the amount of oxygen traveling throughout the system in any given moment.  Normally people will record between 97-100%.  This woman was at 84% – way below the accepted level for a healthy system.  Her acute symptoms were addressed at this visit, yet there was an underlying process that was going on within her.

She was terrified that she might die the same way her adult son had just a year before from the new strain of flu going around – in his case causing bronchial pneumonia.  She was still in grief around that death.  At her next visit this week she remained with low oxygen saturation levels and even after a test walk to get her coughing to bring this level back up, as had happened last week,  her levels did not come back up.  Instructed to put oxygen on her, I was readying the mask and tank with my back to her – and then I turned around.  The fear that was in her face and body hit me strongly from across the room.

Putting the mask down I walked over to her, put my hands on her shoulders, looked in her eyes and said to her  “relax into your breath”.  In that moment of contact and connection I saw the fear lessen and she started relaxing her entire body while thinking the thoughts that she could breathe freely and easily.  Being still connected to the oximetry machine we watched as her 02 levels steadily climbed to 92% – an acceptable level to allow her to leave the office without oxygen according to protocol.  We talked about “biofeedback” and the power each of us has to shift our biological processes by our direct attention and focus.  For her it was enough to shift out of the pattern and is a powerful beginning to her opening to her life force if she so chooses.

Yes, this woman has diminished her lung capacity by her history of smoking and may even have emphysema.  But, she also has a very strong emotional response to her breathing challenges and in fact said to me that the stresses in her life had her “not breathing”, or in some instances “not wanting to breathe”.  What a gift for her to know that if she choses to live fully that she has the power to change her patterns of breathing by relaxing into her breath – into her life – and finding more ease where before there was none or very little.  This may be an on going challenge for her, but I believe in the power of the human body to regenerate, rebuild, and redirect into the harmony of balanced health that is the human bodies built in blueprint and directive.

As Donna Farhi says in the quote above – take a look at how we approach and live our lives, and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings.

Watch your breath…. it is a wise teacher.

Become a container that welcomes the breath……

Gaye Abbott, RYT