Suspending the Breath

Often as a part of a Kundalini Yoga class, instruction is given to hold the breath. Many students both new and practiced are unclear about how to manage the flow of breath, by suspending the breath in a set or meditation. This misunderstanding causes many students to lock the breath in, pull the chin in, tighten the neck and throat muscles and stiffen the tongue. It looks as though they are squeezing their face and muscles, and in fact they are. Another indication of incorrect breathing occurs with an explosive exhale or an abrupt inhale.  This homespun technique can create undo pressure in the eyes, back of the skull, heart and neck. Holding the breath in this way for longer than 10 seconds stops the breath by creating an opposition between different muscle groups which power the breath. Each time we practice this improper technique, we train the subconscious to repeat these mistakes when we are not fully alert.We can train the subconscious correctly, and it will serve us well even when we do not consciously direct the breath. To suspend the breath means to relax the muscles of the diaphragm, ribs and abdomen that are responsible for the constant motion of the breath. It will support deep internal self transformation.

To suspend the breath on the Inhale: Inhale deeply. Bring the attention to the clavicle and upper ribs. Lift the upper ribs slightly and fix them into place. Relax the shoulders, throat, and face. Pull the chin in. Become still and calm. If you feel the urge to exhale, inhale a tiny bit instead.

*The beauty of suspending the breath is that when we become aware of the dynamics of how the physical apparatus of respiration works, the mystery of breath is revealed.

To suspend the breath on the Exhale: Start with a complete exhale. Pull the navel point back towards the spine. Lift the lower chest and diaphragm. Let the upper ribs relax and compress. Do not bend the spine and ribs when you try to exhale completely--that would interrupt the action of the diaphragm. Pull the chin in. Become still and calm. If the muscles start to reflex to inhale, consciously exhale a little more. This can extend the length of suspension significantly without any strain for struggle.

Benefits of suspending the breath The goal of suspending the breath is the gradual reconditioning of the nervous system. Breath suspension allows for integration of the body systems. Suspending the breath in can temporarily raise some blood pressure. Suspending the breath in impacts the sympathetic nervous system. Suspending the breath out lowers the blood pressure, relaxes circulation. Suspending the breath out impacts the parasympathetic nervous system. Suspending the breath allows for centering and training in the use of good judgment under pressure. On the suspended breath you can experience Shuniya--zero. ShuBija is a deep stillness, into which you can plant a Bija, seed, to create a new rhythm or pattern of being. In Shuniya, the Kundalini flows.

Points to remember when suspending the breath: --The brain will trigger inhalation when the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the blood rises too high. It does not react to a loss or gain of oxygen. The cue is taken from the CO2 level. If you prepare to suspend the breath by taking several complete exhales, blowing out extra CO2, you will hold the breath longer and with more comfort. --If you begin to experiencing dizziness or disorientation, stop. Dizziness is not enlightenment! You must build this practice with determined regularity and patience. Pushing past your capacity will not help. --Throughout the practice create a calm internal spot in your awareness at observe the changes of the body and mind. --In all practices where the breath is suspended in or out, remember that the goal is a switch in metabolic activity, nervous system balance or emotional control.

Related Pages: Locks and Breathing