About the Natural Breath

The natural breath is not, strictly speaking, a Pranayama -- rather, it is an exercise which precedes pranayama, a necessary step in which we get in touch with the breath as it is. The intention behind pranayama is to expand our natural capacity for breathing. But before we attempt to work with the breath in a conscious way, we must first become aware of any unconscious patterns of limiting the breath, whether the cause is emotional or a physical limitation. In the Natural Breath, we seek simply to become aware of these patterns while resisting the urge to judge or control. Awareness itself is quite often enough to begin the process of unraveling these knots.

Practicing the Natural breath

Recline in a comfortable posture and observe your breath as it is, without trying to change or 'fix' it. Become aware of places in the body where the breath does not move as freely, areas that may seem dark, insensitive or remote. Simple observation can by itself begin the process of 'undoing' limited patterns of breath by bringing greater awareness -- and thus breath -- to these areas.

Don't be surprised if at first your breath seems more difficult, limited and unnatural. The practice of awareness of the breath can be difficult precisely because of our tendency to want to control processes that come into our awareness. Because of the urge to correct and control, we end up either reinforcing or even imposing further unnatural and limiting patterns of breathing, and the simple act of breathing suddenly seems hard.

Practicing the Natural Breath is not an effort to 'do' the 'right' kind of breathing, but rather to relax and 'undo' habitual patterns of limitation by opening ourselves to the innate intelligence of the breath. So sit back and watch and let the breath be as it wants to be in its fullness. Encourage the breath to express its fullness by your passive participation as a witness.

A way of practicing: recline in the Simple Relaxation Posture  Lie on the floor with knees bent, head supported, hands resting comfortably, one on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take note of how you breathe:

-     Location of breath -- where is movement most noticeable?

-     Origin of Breath -- where does movement of the breath begin?

-     Quality and texture of breath -- what sensations accompany it?

The purpose the practice is to experience and encourage the natural pulsation of the breath by relaxing and witnessing the breath. Once you are able to watch without interfering with the breath, allowing it to come and go as a welcome guest, you will begin to experience the breath blossoming in its fullness, and will be better prepared for the practice of pranayama.