A breath is not something we have to think about. You’ve been breathing as long as you’ve been living. It’s quite organic. And necessary. You either do, or you don’t.
Through the day your breath is constant (as it is through the night), but for the sake of sleep and in the interest of dreams, now is a time for a think about how we breathe.
In yoga terms, this is your prana, and in so many ways your sleep is like a long savasana (corpse pose). The body is still and you set your intentions for what lies ahead. The first breaths of this period should guide you to your dreams.
Eyes shut, arms and legs fully extended in a comfortable, non-static position, breathe in deeply, filling your lungs with fresh night air and hold it in for four to six seconds. Then release, a full exhale. Let out more air than you take in, and with that exhale, release any nervous energy, negative thoughts, and compromising emotions. Empty your lungs entirely. Pause. Then inhale again; this time deeper, more, fully expanding your lungs, and another pause. Exhale.
This is not how you will breathe through the night, but the pattern should be repeated several times. It is fully conscious breathing, a complete inhale and full exhale, five to 10 times, or more. You will feel what works for you, and you will feel it fully.
These should be the final steps in ridding yourself of the day. Think of this as filling a paper bag with the stray thoughts. No, it’s not hyperventilating, but you can visualize, if you must, a balloon increasing in size. Then release.
Let everything out to make room for what will arrive through the night.
Your next set of breaths is still focused, but not nearly as deep. Chose a mental focal point, as simple as a colour, to train the mind to one place. Increasing the intensity of the colour as you inhale, deflating to the lightest shade possible on the exhale. Repeat, steadily, setting a rhythm from light to vivid, brightness to dark, and back again.
In a short time after a precise, pre-sleep breathing regime your body will begin to do what comes naturally. Your pulse will lessen, your blood pressure will drop, each cell of the body will react to this restful state. Slowly you will succumb to this drowsiness. Let everything go. Allow each part of your body to slacken; your jaw will drop, eyes slip further back in the sockets, and the muscles release any tension. You’ll feel the meat falling off the bone.
The lungs will continue to fill, but the chest will not rise and fall, as you enter a halcyonic state. The brain appreciates the dose of fresh oxygen, free of negative ions, and full of purpose.
You may remain in this neutral, seemingly motionless stage, or you may slip into the sleeping position that has served you well in the past. Stillness. The mind will remain active through several documented sleep stages, including REM, where the dreams (the major ones any way) mainly take place.
Like your breath, dreams can become a life force that pulls you through the day. Research indicates the mind is more active during the nocturnal state. By setting yourself up with a mindful breathing practice, without all the decisions and diplomacy that have dogged you through the day, you are better able to rejuvenate the body, activate the brain, and then wake up to the new day and do it all again.
© 2017 j.g. lewis