The technique known as Toroidal Breathing has gained popularity amongst various groups of people who are learning about how to take control of their own health and well-being. It is actually a fairly simple technique to learn and does not take very long to master, although of course this all depends on your existing knowledge of, or familiarity with, other types of breath work such as those found in the disciplines of Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga. The difference between the technique as I employ and teach it and other breathing exercises is the emphasis I like to place on the use of sound to complement the healing and relaxation benefits of the work.
The technique is called “toroidal breathing” because of the shape we visualize and make with our bodies when practicing it. A toroid is best described as a doughnut shape, with the sides ballooning out and a dip in the middle. It is difficult to describe in words but once you see the shape you will most likely feel that you have seen it many times before. This shape is used in many forms of human engineering but also occurs in the natural world. The Earth itself is toroidal in nature . This shape is common to all kinds of fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves, buds and other manifestations of growth within nature.
Like two saucers attached to each other by their convex sides, it is commonly accepted to represent the shape of the chakras within the human body. Imagine that each “saucer” sits on a stem or channel that runs from the base of the spine to the nape of the neck, with one facing front and other facing back you should have a fairly clear visualization of the seven main chakras. This is very useful when working on the cleansing and energizing properties of the Toroidal Breath.
Heart Centered Breathing
Although the two terms are not interchangeable, there are enough similarities between toroidal breathing and heart centered breathing to make it useful to describe the latter. We breathe with our lungs of course, not with our hearts, but using a visualization of the Heart chakra as either discs or flowers opening and closing on the in and out breaths can bring much needed relief from anxiety, grief, sadness and other emotional pain. It can also encourage us to allow more love to enter our lives, and to enable us to give more love to the world and those around us.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, mastering and practicing Toroidal Breathing has many other positive effects on both our physical and emotional bodies. The cleansing breath helps to calm the entire system, to bring in more oxygen and to clear the mind. It opens up the chest, both front and back, easing any breathing difficulties, lifts the rib cage and expands the lungs. Bringing in more oxygenated blood to the entire circulatory system helps to bring a glow to the skin, the eyes are brighter and the whole self feels rejuvenated and vital.
The gentle rhythm of the breath helps to establish a feeling of connectedness to the Earth and to the Heart Chakra of Mother Earth, especially when coupled with a visualization. Accompanying the in and out breaths with a definite sound, such as a gentle sigh, followed by a “bellows breath” on the exhalation can work wonders if you are dealing with feelings of anger or other strong emotions.
The Tree of Life
We have discussed the concept of the double headed flowers attached to the central stem of the body’s chakra system. Now visualize a tree in place of the single stem, with forward and backward facing branches and leaves. Each aspect of the tree is a part of you, and the breath is the nourishment each part needs in order to flourish and grow.
Stand with feet hip width apart, base of the spine tucked in slightly and shoulders relaxed. On the in breath bring the hand up the center of the body to the heart and pause briefly. As you exhale bring the hands above the head, keeping elbows relaxed. Take the hands out the sides on the in breath and pause briefly at shoulder height. Complete the circuit by exhaling and allowing the hands to drift down towards the thighs. If your facilitator gives you a sound to make on each of the four movements use this as you continue to breathe. You can also use a simple “oooh” on the in breath and a more forceful “aaah” on the out breath. Using a mantra, such as I AM LOVE, YOU ARE LOVE as you breathe into these rhythms can also be wonderfully calming and empowering. In Qigong terms this method is given the name “Heavenly Cloud Hands”.
If you wish you can perform the movement in reverse, so that the hands go out to the sides on the in breath, meet above the head on the out breath, drift down the center channel on the inhale and finish the circuit on an exhale down towards the thighs. This movement is known as “Lo-Lo” in Qigong and is a well-known meditation techniques used by the Shaolin monks.
Take Back Your Power
The beauty of this movement is that it can be performed by virtually anyone, regardless of physical ability or limitations. Even if you have restricted mobility, the breathing and the mantras and visualizations bring untold benefits to the subtle body. We are all co-creators of our own reality, and this includes our health and well-being on many levels. Simple by incorporating this technique into your daily life you are taking steps towards creating a happier, healthier mind, body and spirit.