Airing your Mind – The Breath Guru by Alan Dolan

Airing your Mind – The Breath Guru by Alan Dolan

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The bottom line, really, of it, is that I lived with
depression for 25 years, from approximately 12,
13 years of age until … Actually, it’s probably
more than 25, isn’t it? Until about 40, and you know, loads of reasons for it happening, but essentially, there was abuse involved and I was very angry, but it was parental so there was really nothing I
could do on a physical level. I think I was just a very unhappy kid. Home was supposed to be a sanctuary and it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t feel very safe. So the saving grace was my primary school. I had a great primary
school, brilliant teachers, and that was my sanctuary. I did really well. I was a bright kid. At the time, we had the 11+
so I went to grammar school. I ended up in Christian
Brothers Grammar School, which jokingly, sort of
refer to as Stahlig 15. It was pretty awful and at that point, the depression kicked in. I think it was just
because there was no place where I really felt safe. I was so dissociated
from the whole situation. I didn’t even know,
really, what was going on. I just knew that I wasn’t very happy. My levels of self-loathing,
self-hatred were very high. I had some burgeoning sexuality,
I was realizing I was gay. Add it into the mix, you know. Life was pretty tough.
It was really not good. What changed things
was at 40 years of age, for various reasons, I
ended up on a yoga teacher training program, and I previously
had a commercial career. I got to the point where I really just couldn’t continue that. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. So I took a year off. I did my gap year at 40
as opposed to 18 or 19. I thought, “I don’t know
what I’m looking for, “but I know I’m looking for
something,” that’s going to A, help me to feel better,
and B, I felt intuitively it was gonna be sort of
a spiritual wake up call. I had no clue where to go, I had no clue what it was gonna look like, but I had this sense that when I found it, I’d really know. Oprah Winfrey’s one of
my heroes, or heroines, and she said, “Do what
you love and ask yourself “what is it you love in your life?” I asked that question. Yoga
was the thing that came up. I ended up in Costa
Rica at an amazing place called the Nosara Yoga Institute. I spent a month doing a yoga
teacher training program. The idea was that I was
gonna do a career change. If all else failed, this was my backstop. I could open a yoga retreat. Anyway, halfway through
the course, one of the guys that was studying said,
“I’ve got this thing “called transformational breath “and I’d really like you to try it.” I thought, “I’m a yogi baby.” You can’t tell me
anything about breathing. We do a lot of pranayama
and stuff and all of that. And how wrong was I? I did the session, 45 minutes later, the world was a different place, completely a different place. I had a couple of real big realizations, one is I’ve been depressed
since early adolescence, and two was this thing was exactly what I’d been looking for, and three was if it’s so
powerful, I had an amazing connection with whatever
you call the aura is, and I just couldn’t believe
that something so powerful could be not a household name. You know, how come everyone
doesn’t know about this? I guess it’s because
people go, “Breathing? “I already breathe. Why do
I need to learn to breathe?” But this was something different. The rest, as they say, is history. I set up a retreat in Lanzarote
and I’ve been running that now for 12 years. It’s based on the breath. We do other stuff too,
but the fundamental aspect is the breath, and I’ve seen
the breath do really, really incredible things. It’s always good, it’s often amazing, and sometimes it just
leaves me in complete awe at who and what we are. The way I think about
it really is simply that the breath really allows us
to plug into, you could say, the innate healing capabilities
that we have inside. So it’s not like we’re
bringing anything external. It’s really we’re tapping into something that’s already there but isn’t plugged in. The way I normally visualize
it is if you think about a TV that’s plugged in and
it’s got the red light. That’s us most of the time. That’s what I call survival mode. Most of us are using about 20, 25 percent of our respiratory system. When we up the ante on that,
we bring in more oxygen and energy into the body,
it’s like we press go and here comes the
picture in full glorious high definition 3D color, and
it really is the difference between black and white
and color TV you could say or having the TV off and on. It’s that profound. We don’t breathe very well as a species. We used to. When we’re born, we’re born
with the innate knowledge of how to breathe perfectly. I don’t know if you’ve
ever seen a baby breathe, but it’s like the whole body’s expanded. They’re using a lot of
their respiratory system. Over time, with repeated
fight or flight response, which of course, is hard wired
into us so when we get into a situation we find stressing,
we wish to disengage from, we go into fight or flight. I’m exaggerating, but
essentially, it’s a contraction. So not only does the body contract, but the breath contracts
and for most of us, the journey is this way. So we end up with an upper chest breath. Say, probably 80 percent
of people right now, certainly in western
culture, are upper chest shallow breathers. That’s the norm. That’s not a great place to be. Upper chest breathing is
associated with anxiety states. Mentally, emotionally, the
breath is a way to get clarity. By that, what I mean essentially
is get rid of anything that’s in the system that’s preventing us from being in clarity, in
other words, our baggage. What most people refer to is baggage. I think of it as energy,
either emotional or mental, that hasn’t been processed. Why hasn’t it been processed? Because when we go into fight or flight, which we do on a regular
basis, we stop breathing. The breath is the vehicle by
which we process emotional energy, but if you’re not
breathing, you can’t process it. So let’s just say, for example,
you have some fear here. We go into fight or flight,
we don’t think about it, we just go in automatically,
what happens to that fear? The body, very cleverly,
files it away until such time as it can be processed. So what tends to happen when
you do the sort of breath work that I do is you could say
the emotional filing cabinet opens and we get an opportunity
to reaccess the files, reaccess the material, and process it. For a lot of people, it’s
quite an emotional experience when they first come to
breath work because most of us have got quite a lot of
baggage and some process. So we tend to be, like I
said, with my own experience, I think it was 14 sessions
that I just catharted my way though them basically. The key point is you drop your poses, and once you connect your breath, then the magic really begins to happen. It’s nothing to do with speed. You see quite a lot of stuff
on YouTube that looks a bit kind of wacky out there. You’ve got people kind of going
into hyperventilation stuff. It’s very laid back. You wanna be really relaxed
when you’re doing it. You take an inhale, you
breathe into the abdomen, and then you let it go, and
then you just keep that going. So rather than taking the pause,
you just begin to move it. Sometimes you can breathe
for … My general sessions are an hour and 20. I’d like to have somebody
breathing for about 45, 50 minutes of that time, but a self-practice could be five to ten minutes daily. Yeah. So if you wanted to get
it down to its components, A, I would advocate using the mouth. If you’ve got big
resistance, then no worries, use the nose. Two, I would advocate
going down into the abdomen because that’s where
most of us don’t breathe. We’re up in the upper chest. Three, the essential
part, connect your breath. Four, the exhale. The exhale I use generally is
a bit like fogging a mirror. So if you imagine my hand as a hand mirror and I wanted to make some fog on it, I wouldn’t need very
much breath to do that, maybe this much. That’s your exhale. So when you put the open mouth
with the abdominal breath with the connected breath
with this fogging the mirror exhale, you get something like this. The first thing I wanna do is make sure that I’m pretty relaxed. I wanna take my attention away from where it normally
resides, which is my head. I wanna bring it down. I’m gonna aim for just below my navel. I’m gonna take an inhale
and I’m gonna let it go by fogging the mirror. The inhale, by the way, I
think of inflating a balloon. Just imagine a balloon
in your tummy, inflated. So it looks something like this. (deep breathing) And so on and so forth. Three to five minutes of that,
you’re probably gonna start to feel stuff within the body.

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