Six Directions Breathing

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The Six Directions Breathing exercise is a way of practicing the skill of relaxing and balancing your whole body. It is a way of bringing your inner core into relation with the outer world. Sit in an upright posture, either kneeling or sitting cross-legged on the floor, or sitting on a flat chair without touching the back. If you are sitting cross-legged or on a chair, use a towel roll for pelvic support. Ask Sensei for help in sitting in the balanced, strong posture that this breathing exercise requires.

Inhale through your nose, drawing the air gently into the core of your body just below your navel. Then exhale through your mouth, relaxing your mouth and throat. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth is just for this exercise. Normally you should breathe through your nose. Exhaling through your mouth is a preparation for action, and of course, it is how you breathe when you talk, so breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth in this exercise is a bridge between rest and action. You can ask Sensei for help in breathing properly.

In the exercise, you will "aim" your breath as you exhale. By practicing intending to breathe radiantly outward in a number of directions, you will actually open and balance your body. As you practice this exercise and gain skill with the breathing, you will find it productive to aim your breathe farther and farther away.

Inhale into your belly. Then as you exhale, imagine that you are gently blowing the air down your spinal column, out your bottom, to a spot six or eight inches below you. Don't just think about this or picture it in your mind, but actually feel it in your body, do it in your body. Make sure to keep your head/neck relaxed and level as you think downward.

On your second breath, imagine/feel that you are exhaling up your spinal column, out the top of your head, to a spot six or eight inches above you. Breathe gently. Don't purse your lips and blow, but just open your mouth, relax your throat, and let the air come out. On your third breath, breathe out of your right side toward a spot about six inches to your right. Next breathe out of your left side. Then breathe to your rear out of your low back, and next breathe forward out of the pit of your belly. On your seventh breath, breathe in all six directions at once, down and up, left and right, forward and back. Then start over with the first breath. Always start with the down direction because that is a way of stabilizing your mind and body.

This exercise is a way of practicing keeping an open, even, symmetrical awareness of your whole body. Most people, when they first start working with this exercise, experience that there are areas of their body or directions of their breath that are not clear for them. Any dim spot in the feeling of your body's field of attention is an area of reduced body awareness and reduced vigor. Finding gaps in your field of awareness and breathing life back into them is a way of remembering to live fully in your body. More than that, it is a way of contacting the feeling of living fully in the world. You can do this exercise for a few minutes every day, and it will tremendously improve your Aikido practice.

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