Ki breathing is a tool to help you relax in mind and body, promote sleep and enhance healing. It is the simplest and most accessible tool in my course, 'Ki to Health=Ki to Happiness'.
Breathing is a natural rhythm. Like the ebb and flow of the tides, the breath is a continuous ebb and flow of life. Sometimes we breathe faster or deeper, but to breathe is to live. Our bodies want to breathe and struggle to breathe, whether the air is clean or dirty, whether the body is exhausted by illness or in vigorous health. Breath is life.
Many conditions in life prevent us from deep, complete breath. Anxiety tightens muscles, including the intercostal muscles, those little ones between our ribs, making taking a deep breath more difficult. Grief, when suppressed, limits breathing. To stifle tears we take small shallow breaths.
But the oxygen that breathing harnesses is the fuel for health in our bodies. The Japanese word ki, can be translated as energy but also as breath. Breathing is our source of energy for health, for growth and movement. Thus it is important to cultivate our breath and this can be done through breathing exercises.
The practise of ki breathing that was developed in Aikido is, next to Reiki, the practise that has assisted me most in maintaining health and balance in body mind and spirit. It is simple and though I usually do it while kneeling on my mat, it can be performed anywhere, in any position.
I kneel comfortably, in what is known as seiza position. You may use a small bench or stool, cushions, or sit in a chair to make yourself comfortable. You may even practise ki breathing while laying down.
I like to place a candle, small statue or bouquet of flowers just in front of me, about 2-3 ft., to give my gaze a place to rest. I let my eyelids drop slightly so that my gaze is soft on the objects.
Be sure when you sit that your back is elongated with your head so slightly tilted forward and down, to lengthen the neck. Then to begin your ki breathing, drop your chin so your mouth is open, jaw relaxed and expel the air, pushing it out through your mouth with your abdomen. As you breathe out make a small sound with the air passing through your throat. Voice the breath ever so gently. Keep breathing out until no breath remains and then from your hips tip slightly forward, forcing out any remaining air in your lungs. Pause there a second, empty.
Close your mouth and begin to breathe in gently, as if through the tip of your nose. Savour the air as you would a delicate perfume. Let the breath fill your lung cavity. When you feel completely full move backwards just a little, to make space for the last little bit of breath to come in. Pause there for a second, filled with breath.
Now repeat this. You may start with just a few minutes of this breathing practise and you can work up to as much as 20 or 30 minutes of ki breathing in a session.
Breathing out I sometimes imagine my breath going out to the ends of the universe. Sometimes I feel the universe pushing against my body to compress it, the whole universe helping me breathe. Conversely, breathing in I sometimes feel myself getting larger, until I expand to the edges of the universe, while air rushes into me and the universe fills me up.
Some days that I do my ki breathing it comes easily and the time disappears. Some days I am tight and the breathing is more difficult. Sometimes during ki breathing tears come and interrupt my practice for a bit. Ki breathing can be easy and peaceful or difficult and requiring discipline. Always the breathing becomes easier with time and practise.
Ki breathing gives you feedback on what state you are in. It helps you monitor your stress level and notice your emotional state. As you breathe, emotion dissipates and your body relaxes. With the extra oxygen available your body heals and grows and you are invigorated. Your mind becomes calm.
Ki breathing can be performed any time and any place. It is great to dedicate a time in morning or evening when you practise this regularly.