Breathing and walking comprise two of our simplest activities, yet they are also two of our most powerful actions. By bringing them together in a systematic and meditative way, we can enhance our physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness. We can tap our vitality to fully enjoy and excel in our lives.
With a series of easy to follow, transformational exercises that combine breathing and walking in very specific ways for specific benefits, Breathwalk teaches us:
how to alleviate exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, and other problems
to heal physical, mental, and spiritual conflict in our lives
to enter a zone of total fitness within our own bodies and minds
In this simple program that anyone can follow, two of the world's leading experts in meditation and kundalini yoga reveal the power and flexibility of this technique for the first time. Centuries old traditions come together with modern scientific research in an effective and enjoyable holistic way to exercise. This practical, insightful guide is a breath of fresh air that can change your life for the better every time you take a step.
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June 11, 2000
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Excerpt from Breathwalk by Yogi Bhajan
Improving Energy, Mood, Mind, and Connectedness
Breathwalk programs can vitalize your body, mind, and spirit. That special vitality you get from a Breathwalk gives you four main benefits--increased energy levels, mood control, refined mental quality, and feelings of connectedness. Those benefits are like states in America. Each state has its own character, culture, and ways of behaving. Each benefit has its own characteristics and behaviors. Think about it: to really enjoy a visit to a state, you need to look a little more closely at the travel guide in order to see the cities and the special features in the environment that you want to experience. Consider this chapter a closer look at the territory of each benefit. We will identify certain noteworthy features of its terrain, giving you the information you need to design an exploration that will give you the kind of experience you want.
Part of the beauty of Breathwalk is that it gives you a wide spectrum of choices. It is rich with variety, even though its foundation, walking and breathing, is simple. Once you know which pattern of exercise and breathing to do, you can target specific shifts in your energy levels, your mood, and your awareness and achieve amazing results.
In this chapter we will take you through each of the types of Breathwalk benefits. You might be pleasantly surprised to find so many choices within each benefit. After all, Breathwalk is not just exercise. It is exercise plus a meditative mind. Add to that specific patterns of breath and you can design your walking experience with as much nuance as you like.
A Breathwalk can be divided into five steps that flow from one to the other in each walk. These steps are awaken, align, vitalize, balance, and connect. Each Breathwalk offers you so many choices because the different exercises, breathing patterns, and ways of using your mind's attention can be combined in a variety of ways in every walk. We will go through each of these five Breathwalk steps in detail in later chapters, but first let's talk in more detail about the four main benefits of the Breathwalk program.
Benefit 1. Increased Energy Levels
Our personal energy level affects our lives in multifaceted ways. Energy determines our capacity for elegant action in the world. Energy bounds the intensity with which we can express ourselves. It determines, for instance, our ability to speak powerfully--with animation and impact. When our energy level is optimal, we become aroused and alerted to the world around us. Then, with a profound reciprocity, nature seems alerted to and connected to us. We experience energy as vigor and stamina--the physical and mental strength that we can sustain and bring to bear upon any problem.
We all feel our energy in its potential and active forms. We sense our reserves as well as our immediate energy and use our assessment of both to determine which challenges we will take on and which we will decline. And one of our greatest sources for reserve energy is our spirit. Whether we recognize it or not, when we reach deeply within ourselves and tap into our spirit, that spirit gives us stamina, grit, scope, and energy that works regardless of everything happening around us.
Even though our energy level has multiple areas of expression and corresponding sources, most of us form habits and consistently draw our energy from a few favored yet unhealthy sources. Instead of drawing on the body-mind-spirit as a whole, we grab on to seemingly immediate solutions like food, drugs, emotional dramas, or excitement. But our design is subtler than that. Our sources are more diverse. We need to think more holistically about our energy level and its sources, for as we'll explain further in a moment, quick fixes like food and drugs actually take away more energy than they provide. Breath, on the other hand, works as an energy source. It is one we don't use enough. Huge reserves of energy lie buried in our musculature and in our glands, ready to be tapped and used--by mastering our own breathing.
You see, the nervous system can actually contain and release energy. The part of your nervous system called the autonomic system can be developed in the same way that a muscle can be toned or shaped. And the energy stored or released in that system is directly affected by breathing, exercise, and your entire attitude. Your emotions, and all the electrical and chemical processes that change with them, are sources for energy. Awareness itself is also a great source of energy, for your state of awareness directly changes the pattern of your brain activity. Good, healthy nutrition and conscious eating is another source of energy and healing. Our ideal is to be vitalized by all these sources. We want to align our habits and activities to sources of energy that deliver us in the present and sustain us for the future.
But without some training and conscious introspection, most of us do not use all of these sources. Instead, once we sense our energy is running low, we let our search for more energy get directed by unconscious habits and emergency reflexes. We grasp whatever seems closest and takes the least attention or effort. Surrounded by junk food and instant everything, we often make poor choices and end up losing energy instead of gaining it. A drink or two to relax at the end of the day seems reasonable, but for many people it leads to depression, reckless driving, and emotional withdrawal. Not knowing how to tap our core energy, some of us rely on stirring up an emotional storm within ourselves. The resulting emotional outburst releases energy but, like a bad storm, devastates everything in its path--a short-term gain, but an enduring loss that actually depletes our energy. In order to get and stay vitalized and healthy for the long run, however, we need to cultivate effective energy regeneration strategies. Like a flowing stream, we need constant renewal to live well.