The Alchemy of Breath Technique

This Friday I spontaneously was invited to a breathwork session by Anthony Abbagnano at TriYoga in Camden. His organisation is called the Alchemy of Breath and shows people how to remember using the breath to move emotions and strong feelings though our bodies - instead of them becoming stuck. 

The breath is something that when we are stressed gets shallow - and sometimes can seemingly stop altogether. This holds tension in the body and over time crystallises our worries and stores them in our body tissues. Trauma at any point in our lives can get stuck in this way too, but especially in the developmental stage of childhood. When reaching adulthood this can turn into many issues: pains, blocks, or unhelpful behaviours such as depression, rage or anxiety. 

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Anthony shows you how to release these trapped energies, first by feeling the raw emotions and then by breathing deeply through the experience of them. Often when we get into a heavy negative cycle we contract. For example sobbing in despair. He explains how we tend to switch to a very shallow restricted breath. This ends up often turning to violent coughing or gasping for air as the body tried to get oxygen.

Anthony offers us to practice the Coherence Breath to locate this raw emotion in our bodies. This very simple technique can be practiced anywhere and at the very moment you encounter negative emotion. It's important not to distract yourself from feeling bad, or labelling it as bad. Really try to let the experience be fully felt, embodied, so it can pass through you and be returned with honour to the source, the universe, the Is-ness, from where it originated. 

THE COHERANCE BREATH

To be able to begin to release this negative emotion, which could be appearing in our bodies and minds, firstly allow it to be there. Connect with it. Really feel it. What does it have to say to you? What thoughts come into your mind? Perhaps they are self depreciating thoughts, allow them to be there, listen to them, don't judge them. Begin to breath deeply. Breathing in very slowly to the count of five ... and breathing out again at the same slow pace. Continue for a full five minutes. 

When doing this you can usually feel an immediate release. Sometimes the release comes from the shoulders, pain in the joints, the brain and scalp relax, the heart relaxes and opens, the throat softens. Everything relaxes as you are moving this energy though you, freeing it, not locking it in. He suggests to move the body anyway it wants to, to further release tensions. 

This is one gentle technique which can be done anywhere in times of stress: at work, in the the streets, during an argument. He says often during conflict he makes sure he breathes in this way at least three times before responding, as it brings him into his heart chakra and he can respond clearly without triggers or unconscious reactions. 

Learn to calm the storms in your daily life 
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I’m practicing this in my daily life right now. I’d love to see if this simple, free and extremely easy technique works for you. Please do feel free to comment below. Namaste

SEASONS CHANGE: INCENSE, NATURE & TAO

The force of nature, the transformational aspects - particularly the seasons - are a source of great wonder for taoists. In Autumn we see the light recede and the darkness advance. Likewise many of the lush greens of nature and vibrant blues of the skies, turn to golden browns and sombre, mysterious, reflective shades of grey. 

The fundamental quality of incense and its ability to change from one state to another - from that of a fragrant solid material, into elegant smoke rising up to the heavens - is the reason it is so symbolic to the taoists.

Reflection 

Consider a piece of fruit, that has been bathed in sunlight all summer long, now fallen to the ground. Its life, an imprint, a seed, lays silent, dormant in the earth, waiting for the spring. A blanket of leaves covers the seed, in turn inspiring us to retreat from the high energy of summer and slow down our actions; go inside, nurture and create fertile ground for ideas later to flourish once again. 

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” 
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Incense as a symbol of this transformation in nature has come to be known as a direct representation of the Tao. It is a vital aspect in the rituals of worship: incense is lit at the beginning of every service (fa-lu) and at the end of the ceremony the incense is replenished (fu-lu). 

The Tao Of Breathing (Ch’i)

Breathing has been an important field of study in the East for over 5000 years. Taoists, Buddhists and yogis all use breathing as a way to prevent sickness, prolong youth, achieve longevity and reach the highest accolade of immortality.

Yoga, qi gong and tai chi chuan all use breath to not only enhance the flow of movement (and the flow of prana/ch'i which is connected to the breath), but also in martial applications to power offensive and defensive techniques.

Many masters through the ages have kept secret the full knowledge of the power of the breath, imparting it only to their most devout students. Pramayama in yoga is similar, in that it is not widely taught and only advised for advanced students under supervision of a teacher, due to the powerful effects it can have.

The Air We Breathe

One of the most fascinating things I have come across recently is that when breathing, we not only inhale oxygen, we also inhale other vital elements that if difficient, we are usually advised to take in a pill. These elements are: Iron, copper, zinc, fluorite, quartz, zincite and magnesium.

Daoist philosopher Chuang Tzu proclaimed ‘Expel the old, take in the new’. 

Eastern practices teach that breathing is not just about what we gain, but also what we expel. This could be letting go of tensions, beliefs, repetitive thoughts, but also getting rid of waste and toxic metals that accumulate in the body from our environment (lead, mercury and other poisons). Buddhists have long taught that when used properly, the breath can purify, repair and clean the body (some say over 70% of toxins in the body are expelled by breath alone!).

This makes getting out into nature for some fresh air an even more valuable pass time. In this most basic, natural form we are able to detoxify, heal and purify our bodies simply by using the power of the breath.

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This is a good article on the different types on qi gong breathing ... here

A gentle, healing pramayama technique in yoga would be alternate nostril breathing, which balances left and right hemispheres of the brain, relaxes the nervous system and cleanses the lungs, to name a few... read more here

Frankincense: history, uses & benefits

Frankincense and Myrrh are perhaps the most well know ingredients in all of incense making. They are said to have been used in healing and spiritual practices for over 5000 years. A well-known commodity on the incense and spice route, their value far outweighed even gold. 

Coming from the same plant family, Burseraceae, Frankincense and Myrrh grow in dry climates like Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Oman and Ethiopia. They are small shrub-like trees, which are not distinctive in any particular way - however they bare the most precious gifts of healing fragrance.

 Frankincense Tree in Dhofar mountain, Oman

Frankincense Tree in Dhofar mountain, Oman

Some of the health benefits of these two beautiful scented resins are said to be anti-depressant, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory. They are able to stimulate the immune system, promote wound healing, as well as alleviate pain. Healers would use these substances as treatments for illness and also to stimulate the mind and body for spiritual practices. Many Ayurvedic products are still made with extracts of these wondrous herbs.

Meditation practitioners believe in the medicinal benefits of burning high quality natural frankincense and myrrh incense for achieving mental clarity, as it is said that the tree resins could open the mind and strengthen memory. So alongside sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh incense is one of the most requested blends favoured by monasteries, churches and spiritual places for cleansing the space. Further more the ancients documented the use of frankincense as having hallucinogenic properties, so this was ideal for shamans to get into altered states of consciousness.  

Many people looking for high-end incense will most likely stumble across blends of precious frankincense and myrrh, as they are now rare woods. Please see Labrang (Frankincense & Myrrh) and Ta'er (Sandalwood), to view our rare wood incense blends.

Binaural Beats and Meditation

Being a music lover it comes as no surprise for me to learn that certain beats have been proven to help you get into that special state of deep meditation. Binaural beats, are two slightly different beats played through headphones in each ear, causing the left and right hemispheres of the brain to work together to hear a phantom frequency - a third tone. They effect our brainwaves in relaxing or uplifting ways and some are said to induce healing capabilities, boost our intuition and even help with learning.

What both surprises and delights me is how strong they can be - after all it is just sound, no substances are taken, no mysterious ambience, just sound waves creating a magical experience for the brain. Some of the ones I enjoy most are pure theta waves. Theta brain waves, measured at 4 -7 Hz, are the brain state of shamanic states of consciousness and REM sleep. Therefore Theta can be seen as a bridge between the conscious and subconscious, between dream and reality.  Binaural beats take you there in minutes - which previously may have taken years of meditation practice. It is said that while in the Theta state, the mind is capable of profound healing, learning and growth - some even refer to this as an 'alternative medicine'. You might also find with practice your inner vision can be turned on by your pineal gland, to perceive beyond the five physical senses.

Binaural beats come in several frequency ranges which are all interesting to explore, if you feel like experimenting there are many sources where you can find them, both online and in certain shops. I trust you will find some you like and enjoy as much as I did!

meditation lake