To breathe is to live.  Without breath there is no life.

from Science of Breath, by Yogi Ramacharaka,

Most of us breathe without even noticing it. And it often feels like a continuous process, perhaps like waves coming in from the ocean to the shore.

In Bando, we breathe very intentionally, knowing that breath can energizes and shape the movement of the body. One of the first principles we incorporate is synchronizing breath and movement. A punch or a block is stronger when the exhale is timed to the movement. A sustained breath can make the technique more forceful, a quick breath can make a technique more explosive. Different breaths are appropriate to apply depending on your objective for the technique.

In general, we use an inhale for the preparation of a movement, and execute on the exhale. Not sure you see the connection? Try punching while inhaling. It feels really, really wrong and ineffective. If you then try exhaling with a punch, you’ll feel how it flows together.

Begin to examine your breath. Notice that there is a distinct moment when the inhale starts. Notice there’s a distinct moment when the exhale starts. After you’re able to recognize those points, perhaps add a pause between each inhale and exhale. Notice which parts of your body move for the inhale, and which parts move for the exhale. Once you’re able to do this, you’re starting to truly begin working with different breath patterns, or pranayama. (In Sanskrit, pranayama means “energy control”.)

Your breath cycle has four parts. After the inhale, there is a period when the body is full of air (antara kumbhaka). After exhaling, there is a period, or even just a moment, when the lungs are empty (bahya kumbhaka).

Today, work on Abdominal Breathing. This is a fundamental breath pattern for Bando techniques; it is also the most efficient form of breathing. Many of us unconsciously employ chest breathing, where the chest rises and falls with each breath and the stomach remains still. In abdominal breathing, the lower abdomen expands with the inhale, pulling the diaphragm down and drawing air into the lungs; the lower abdomen contracts with the exhale. (You might want to read more about the mechanics of breathing by clicking here.)

Practice abdominal breathing by putting one hand on your chest, the other on the belly. When inhaling, the lower hand should move outworks and the upper hand should remain still. When exhaling, the lower hand moves closer to the body and the upper hand continues to remain still. Keep practicing this until you can maintain abdominal breathing without conscious effort.

Keep practicing!  Interested in reviewing past Bando minutes? Check out the Bando Minute archive!