In his 1939 version of "The Eye of Revelation," the author Peter Kelder recommends that you, "stand erect with hands on hips between the Five Rites and take one or two deep breaths." But strangely, he removed this instruction from his updated 1946 version. So what should you do?
When it came to developing T5T® (The Five Tibetans & Energy Breathing Program), I included breathing simply because it is such a vital contributor to our overall health, energy & wellbeing. Breathing is so significant. It supplies life-giving energy (prana, chi) as well as oxygen to our bodies & removes wastes.
Most significantly; a number of clinical studies have proven that how well you breathe literally dictates your lifespan! Consider this:
The average person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid 20's. Then they begin to lose respiratory capacity: between 10% and 27% for every decade of life! So, unless you are doing something to maintain or improve your breathing capacity, it will decline, and with it, your general health, your life expectancy, and for that matter, your spirit as well.
Did you know that given an optimal diet, the respiratory system should be responsible for eliminating 70% of your metabolic waste? The remainder should be eliminated through defecation 3%, urination 8%, and perspiration 19%. So, if you think that going to the bathroom everyday is important, or that working up a good sweat now and then is healthy, think again about the value of full free optimal breathing!
However, despite clearly being able to breathe - most people do not breathe properly or effectively. They either over breathe or under breathe – using a fraction of their lung capacity.
When you are stressed or anxious do you find that you take shallow rapid breaths from your chest, or hold your breath? Do you yawn or sigh a lot?
Did you know that the way you breathe affects how you feel? Breathing rapidly is associated with the ‘flight and fight’ response of the body, whereas breathing slowly and deeply is associated with the ‘rest and relaxation’ response of the body. By adjusting your breathing you can directly influence your mind.
It is very important to improve your breathing. The breathing muscles like all the muscles in your body need to be used! The better your breathing, the healthier you will be and the longer you will live. Animals that breathe the slowest, live the longest – think of tortoises, whales etc.
If you are taking the time to do a daily energy raising exercise routine (5 Tibetans) – it makes perfect sense to include natural full breathing with the movements. Breathing in fills your body with life-giving oxygen; and breathing out eliminates toxins and wastes.
T5T® teaches you how to breathe slower, deeper, fuller and with less tension. Our ‘Energy Breathing Technique’ is completed 3 times between each Rite. Plus we instruct you on how to breathe correctly while performing the Rites.
So How Should You Breathe While Doing The Postures?
Once you have learned how to breathe fully using your diaphragm as the principal organ of respiration - with a full expansion of your rib cage wide to the sides and into the back - as well as into the upper chest; then you can use the breath as a source of energy and expansion in your movements. And as you breathe out you help mobilize toxins and wastes out of the body.
In T5T we breathe in all the way up into the posture and then we breathe all the way down into the second part of the movement.
Rite No 5 - Downward Dog
For people who regularly practice yoga, they will find this breathing method the reverse of how they were taught to breathe while performing Downward Dog (the upside down V shape part of the posture). In moving into Downward Dog practitioners usually exhale instead of inhale as we do in T5T®. In traditional yoga it is usual to breathe in when expanding and opening the body and to breathe out when closing the body inwards as in bending or folding.
There are advantages for both methods of breathing. The reason we breathe in during the downward dog part of the posture has less to do with downward dog, but more to do with the upward dog part of the posture! Upward dog places strong demands on the muscles of the lower back and abdomen. In T5T we use our core muscles to protect and stabilize the spine and this is easier to achieve & maintain on an out-breath. We consider the protection of the spine absolutely crucial when doing these movements repetitively, to avoid injury or strain over both the short and the long-term. Hence our breathing method.
Most people consider the breathing in and up and breathing out and down method ideal, but if you are used to breathing out when coming into downward dog - then you may wish to stick with that. Be very conscious of extending the spine and avoiding compression in upward dog.
If you want to find how well you breathe – try breathing expert & contributor to T5T®’s breathing methods; Mike White whose free online breathing tests– have been done by around 50,000 people so far.
…"Breathing slower, deeper and easier is vital for longevity, health and vitality. I believe that T5T can help most people become more conscious of their breathing. It can also release tension in their breathing, and often gradually expand their breathing capacity as well as slow their breathing rate. T5T will help many people to achieve the above, however there are those who may have an undetected dysfunctional breathing or what I call UDB whose next step would be my Optimal Breathing Techniques."… Michael Grant White, “The Breathing Coach” - Executive Director of www.breathing.com and the OptimalBreathingSchool
What About Breathing Between Each Rite?
As mentioned earlier we (T5T®) do what we call Energy Breathing between each Rite. This is our variation of the yogic three-part breath with some adaptations and a specific focus. Our focus is to remove tension from our breathing apparatus and open our breathing spaces. The aim is to improve the natural day-to-day breath as opposed to performing a ‘breathing exercise’.
By repeating Energy Breathing on a daily basis the effect is cumulative and overall natural breathing is improved. Proper instruction is required to learn how to breathe fully in this way.
- *The Framingham study These researchers were able to foretell how long a person was going to live by measuring forced exhalation breathing volume, FEV1 and hypertension. We know that much of hypertension is controlled by the way we breathe. "Long before a person becomes terminally ill, vital capacity can predict life span." William B. Kannel of Boston School of Medicine (1981)
- University at Buffalo. Schunemann HJ, Dorn J, Grant BJB, Winkelstein W, Jr., Trevisan M. Pulmonary Function Is a Long-term Predictor of Mortality in the General Population 29-Year Follow-up of the Buffalo Health Study. Chest 2000;118 (3)656-664.
- University of Pavia, Italy discovered that slowing the respiratory rate to 6 breaths a minute reduces shortness of breath, improves pulmonary gas exchange and exercise performance in patients with CHF. Practicing slow and deep breathing thus can be beneficial in heart failure or in other diseases. (Source: Lancet. 1998 May 2; 351(9112):1308-11.)
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Copyright (c) 2005 Carolinda Witt - author The Illustrated Five Tibetan Rites (Penguin/Lantern 2005) and The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan (Random House/Three Rivers Press 2007)