We have an amazing tool that is available to us at anytime–our own breath. It is free, and as long as we’re alive, it never runs out. But there’s a catch.
Although many people never give it a second thought, we have to work with it if we want it to work for us. Like any tool, to maximize its efficiency, we have to use it properly. To better cut wood, we use the right saw. We hold it properly and cut along the natural lines of the lumber. For more effective communication, we choose words thoughtfully. And with the breath, we start by directing it to the right place.
It is a magical place that goes by many names. The Kung Fu masters call it the Tan-tien, the Zen masters call it the Hara and the Tibetans call it the Windhorse. It is just below the belly button and is believed to be the cradle of our character, emotions and mood. When we direct our breath here, and project our actions from an unbroken focus on this power spot, we maximize our effectiveness in everything we do. The mystic experience is directly correlated to our ability to engage this region. “There’s a little Buddha in your belly,” my zen teacher used to say, “why don’t you see if you can wake him up.”
In yoga, it is associated with the Manipura chakra. It is the center of prana and in the kundalini tradition, it is the fount of the kundalini energy. But, the wellspring of life would run dry without breath. It is said that if you don’t speak from this region, you will not be heard. That’s how important it is to work with it properly, which means nothing other than to breathe properly, to breathe deeply, to breathe to the bottom of your diaphragm. Breathe until you look like you’re pregnant.
Through kundalini exercises like Sat Kriya, Stretch Pose and breathing techniques like the all-powerful breath of fire, we strengthen our ability to project from this key region. We start on the physical plane and meld into subtler realms.
While releasing toxins at the cellular level, expanding our lung capacity and strengthening our nervous systems and navel chakra, we are simultaneously expanding our auric field. We are increasing the oxygen delivery to the brain and encouraging a more balanced state of mind–what we refer to, in kundalini yoga, as “the neutral mind.” Thus the therapeutic effects of yoga are innumerable, yet they are not the main point.
The moment we breathe consciously, we reveal the most exalted purpose of yoga. The moment we breathe consciously, we begin our spiritual journey; we traverse the bridge between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. We invite the infinite within, so that we may discover that there was never any separation at all.
Breathing turns the key to the process of self-transformation and is a superior conduit for the evolution of our consciousness and the culminating awareness of ourselves as divine beings. Its origin is the navel point–and when this region is strong, we can then harvest that energy to “pierce into the upper realms of consciousness.”