8 part breath cycle

Beginning Breathwork Mini-Workshop
Wednesday November 16, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Space is limited –
email Jim to register

Breathing is one of the few automatic actions in the body that we can consciously engage in. One of the wonderful things about breathwork is that you can practice anytime, anyplace, and in any physical condition. Working with the breath is something that can be cultivated over an entire lifetime, ceaselessly deepening as your body – and your experience of your body – changes over time.

The Breath Cycle

Regardless of the type or style of breathwork you practice, it all revolves around the breath cycle – taking a breath and letting it out. The breath can be dissected into the obvious segments of inhalation (breathing in) and exhalation (breathing out).

The turnaround points (the space/moments where one part of the cycle changes into another) are where you’re in the best position to affect the breath cycle – draw it out, change the mechanics you’re using, make the cycle bigger, smaller, pause it (at least temporarily). Or just quietly observe.

We could also look at the passive (relaxed, allowing it to happen) and active (forced, encouraging it to happen) aspects of the breath. We can actively increase either the inhalation or the exhalation, depending on the needs of the body. For instance, we can actively take in more air on the inhale, and let it naturally out on the exhale:

Or inhale passively, and actively exhale:

In both situations, we’re dealing with four basic parts to the cycle:

  1. Inhalation (passive or active)
  2. Turnaround Point (from inhalation to exhalation)
  3. Exhalation (passive or active)
  4. Turnaround Point (from exhalation to inhalation)

We can also coordinate/combine the passive and active aspects of breathing. This not only gives us a longer overall cycle, but also a couple of extra turnaround points to play with – the changing from passive to active on both the inhalation and exhalation:

This would give us the 8 part breath cycle:

  1. passive inhalation
  2. turnaround point (from passive to active)
  3. active inhalation
  4. turnaround point (from inhalation to exhalation)
  5. passive exhalation
  6. turnaround point (from passive to active)
  7. active exhalation
  8. turnaround point (from exhalation to inhalation)

Simply spending some time noticing the parts of the cycle can be a wonderful practice in and of itself. Actively engaging in shaping the breath – passive/active combinations, manipulation of the turnaround points – is a very useful tool to explore and study the individual components.

Different traditions will focus on or emphasize certain aspects of breathwork, but fortunately there are no right or wrong ways to breathe. Awareness and articulation of the parts (and of course, practice) will give you a strong foundation to take breathwork in any direction you choose.

Or as Jan Parker would say, “just know what you’re doing”.

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