What is Conscious Breathing?

Muscles and Mind, Mind-Body

Grayson Fertig


I’m very much a beginner with yoga and the concept of “conscious breathing” keeps coming up?  I’ve always been involved in athletics, played college basketball and continue to be active and I’ve never before been asked to consciously breathe.  I’m willing to learn and I want to learn but I’m not sure where I’m headed with “conscious breathing”.  I’m not sure what my long term view of it should or could be. -Dina, 42, New York City

First and foremost I am not the most informed person on this subject.  However I’m very interested in it and I have strategies, but I still have a lot to learn.

I think that an important thing to do is to take some of the shine off of “conscious breathing”.  Call it practice.  I do believe that there is considerable value to practicing breathing.

Practice.  Like shooting free throws practice refines your technique.  Still you cannot micro-manage your shot and expect better results.  It has to be natural.  The ritual of practicing is what allows you to someday step to the line, close your eyes, and shoot the ball.  Swish.  A beginner might not even hit the backboard.

As you said you are a beginner and you have to be comfortable with the idea that you might not be very good at something that essentially is you.  It is Your breath after all.

I live on Maui and am very much a Haole.  I am white and cannot escape that, but I was interested to learn that the word is derived from hāʻole, literally meaning “no breath”.  Some Hawaiians say that because foreigners did not know or use the honi, a Polynesian greeting by touching nose-to-nose and inhaling or essentially sharing each other’s breaths, and so the foreigners were described as breathless. The implication is not only that foreigners are aloof and ignorant of local ways, but also literally have no spirit or life within.

If you humbly pursue the practice and art of breathing you will surely bring even more life within.  That I believe is your long term view.

I have studied and participated in yogic breathing exercises(pranayama) and I have to say that while I understand the intention I don’t have the same internal feeling that I have when I play the harmonica.  That’s me though I love to Play and through Play I learn.  It is also how I teach.  I recognize though that this approach is not for everyone.  If you’re a person who likes to play then go to a music store in your neighborhood and pick up a C harp and doodle.  Be creative and adventurous, bring life within.  Take the harp with you and play as you walk.  Look for the echoes in the subway stations, lobbys and in hallways.  Find a stoop to sit on or a doorway to lean up against.

I think if you spend a few weeks playing with the harmonica you’ll know that much more about your breath and your sound.  From there the pranayama exercises might just come alive for you.  After a few weeks of playing the harmonica I think you’ll notice an improved agility to blend the inhale into the exhale.  This agility will give you flow in the asana practice because you won’t get caught up on an inhale or an exhale.  The refined breathing will be reflected in your movements.  You will feel that and I think you will love how that feels.

At Forever Fit Science we are developing this idea of mixing the harmonica with physical activity.  I think you will really enjoy the Harmonica Project.  Look for it within the next month under the tab Projects.  I’ll email you to let you know once it’s up.


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