Entry into a relationship with one’s breath and how the body responds to the changing pressures of the flow of air is an essential component of staying healthy. giving ourselves the best chance to live fully. The importance of breathing cannot be overstated. The human body’s top priority for nourishment is breath, water and food.  Breath is first, water second and then food.  We often don’t think of breath as nourishment although we know we need it to survive. Breath nourishes us by bringing Oxygen to the cells of our body. The cells use this essential ingredient in manufacturing the energy molecules use to run the all biological processes. Breathing also nourishes us through movement. The movement of breath moves the body simultaneously. This movement is a like a rocking motion that soothes the nervous system.   Valuing this reality of the need for taking the next breath of clean air motivates our curiosity of leaning how best to use utilize our respiratory system.  And, hopefully recognize the dangers of polluting our atmosphere which is the lifeline for all species.

This video is compilation of a two-hour Buteyko Breathing class. It includes an overview of the principles of the Buteyko Method and tips and exercises for maintaining healthy breathing. There is information on the science of respiration. And, and introduction to Robert Litman who has been teaching breathing and body movement for over 30 years. Robert lives off the coast of Seattle and offer privates and group sessions on Vashon Island and on-line.  He is available for consultations to discuss an approach that would work best considering your availability. His contact information is available on this website.

Welcome everybody. Nice to see you all here today to talk about the relationship between breathing and health. A little bit about me. I’m Robert Litman. I’ve been teaching breathing for 30 years. I Started in 1988 with the Dugan French Approach to Somatic Pattern Recognition. This was my first introduction into the lineage of Dr Ida Rolf.  Working with people’s ability and capacity to breathe. I deeply got into this work. I have a daughter who’s now 50 who was a severe asthmatic and I was very concerned for her health. I gave her books about diets and other things and nothing ever worked. And then I found out about a method called the Buteyko Breathing Method in 2002 and went to study in New Zealand for five weeks in a yearlong program.

Working on reservations there and learning more about breathing. My knowledge about breathing is cumulative over many different modalities including Continuum Movement &The Buteyko Method. I just finished getting a certification as a breathing analyst from the Graduate School of Health Sciences in Wyoming.  My lecture today and the experiential pieces are an accumulation of all these modalities that I’ve studied, plus my own body’s ability to breathe. I often think of myself as a guide teaching people how to pay attention to their own breathing. And that breathing is actually the teacher. If you can tune in, then you are able to find out more about how your body is working with breath and how you feel about breath and what you know about breath and what breath wants to teach you. It is really basic. Your breath is the teacher. I find that the two most important things about breath that we want to pay attention to are the connection to your breathing and how breath connects you to yourself.

When you connect to your breathing you’re connecting to yourself. The other one is the sense of continuity that opens the perception of wholeness. We can get an experience of this now. Let’s take two minutes while closing your eyes. I’ll do the same thing as you. Use your attention to follow the movement of your breath. I’m not interested in whether you breathe right or wrong because that really puts a restriction on your ability to breathe. As soon as your body thinks you’re trying to make it work in a very particular way, it becomes difficult to breathe. I’m interested in your relationship to the movement of your body and the movement of your breath. You’re developing a sense of intimacy with yourself by following this most essential process. Close Your eyes and just follow movement. Movement of your breath as it comes in right at the tip of your nostrils. Breath is under your nose. It’s not something you have to reach out for very far. It’s right under your nose

Feel as your breath comes in if there is a change in the volume inside of your lungs and as a result, part of your body starts to move, to expand, to accommodate that change in volume and pressure. Asking yourself, what are you being told? What are you being shown? What kind of meaning do you make up about what you discover here? It is always interesting for a community of people to just breathe together. Take about 30 more seconds and when you’re ready, slowly let your eyes drift open and notice as your eyes drift and you take little bites of light coming in, if it influences your breathing. Yeah, everything affects the breathing.

In our atmosphere. We have three gases. Seventy eight percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and .03 percent carbon dioxide. We all know, do we not that when we’re talking about climate change and what is causing the climate change to happen. It’s an increase in the carbon dioxide levels, so just that small little percentage of increasing in the carbon dioxide levels is causing huge global change all around the world. Some places are colder, or some places are hotter or some places windier. Some places have more rain or more snow. There’s disturbances and they are natural disturbances, but they don’t fit into how we live our human life. The same thing is true inside the body. The body is made up of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. If one of those gases goes off, then our breathing goes off and everything in our body that is dependent upon healthy respiration starts to malfunction.

In terms of your health and your breathing, if your breathing chemistry is not balanced properly, then different things can happen inside to your health.

When we’re born, our first breath is an inhale and when we die, we go out on our exhale.  Life and death at both ends of that cycle. Every breath we take in our lifetime, 20,000 of them a day is a fractal of that cycle of life and death. You could say that we are becoming manifest (created) on the inspiration. In most cosmologies, if you look at how the world began and how people began, it’s God blowing breath into the first humans to bring them alive. Every time we breathe in, we are becoming manifest. It’s a moment of creation. It is to be honored, it’s sacred. Here I am once again in this life, having a moment to enjoy what is here in this moment. As I begin to breathe out, that moment is dissolving.
At the end of that exhale, you don’t know if you are going to take another breath. Do you know if you’re going to take another breath? Does anybody know if they’re going to take another breath? It’s taken for granted and so many people we know don’t get that breath the next time around. They didn’t even know that that was coming. To take breath in is sacred. Inhale – exhale. Another great lesson that breathing has taught me is that everything comes and goes. We can think that a difficult situation is always going to be this way.  It doesn’t because the way we feel changes breath by breath.
Our current popular interest in presence (breath) enables us to come out of fight and flight and come out of freeze. I’m here with what’s here right now when I feel the movement of my breathing. Our imaginations have gotten so evolved that is not just about whether the saber tooth tiger is coming out to eat us. It’s whether the imaginary saber tooth tiger is coming out to eat us. The nervous system doesn’t know the difference between what it imagines and what’s real. So if we can come back to what do I really feel right now? What’s here right now? My breathing, well then, I am present to my breathing and I’m no longer in that conversation about the saber tooth tiger. The mechanism that triggers the flight and fight (anxiety) response is using the mouth for breathing. The nose is for breathing and the mouth is for eating.
In the position that you’re sitting in, breathe in through your nose quietly. Notice how your body’s moving with breath and observing the state of the nervous system.  Sarah said, more relaxed. Megan said, getting quieter inside. Nose breathing can induce a parasympathetic response, rested and settled. Now also pay attention to the effort in the breathing cycle. Take a couple of breaths in and out through your mouth and watch what happens in your nervous system and then go back to nose breathing and seeing what happens there. You can go back and forth and then when you have some answers for yourself, just look up so I know you’re done and we’ll have a little talk about that. What did you notice? Mouth breathing feels terrible. Can you be more specific about what it feels terrible about it?

I can tell you more easily what feels good about breathing through the nose. It feels more relaxed and I feels more present and in touch with my body than when I breath through my mouth. When I breathe through my mouth it is the opposite of that. It felt like a raw cold air.

Yeah. And your nervous system? Did you notice that? Helen says, I wasn’t comfortable at all. Activated. We could say if we were doing something that we needed to be activated, mouth breathing could be useful. But most of the time it starts to put us into our thinking body and it creates a state of fight or flight (anxiety). If a grizzly bear were to walk into the door, what would be the first breath you would take. Yes, a big breath through your mouth, a gasp. That would just trigger your fight and flight response. You wouldn’t care about how pretty the building is anymore. Your vision would get really narrow. Your heart would race. Your body might sweat to keep you cool. Your digestion would stop. Your immune system would get overactive and you’d be in full on panic, fight or flight. You either could play dead (freeze) or run or stay and fight.  It’s not the moment that you would be noticing the wallpaper.

In that moment being in fight or flight or freeze is appropriate to the situation. On everyday basis, it really doesn’t serve you to be triggering a fight or flight response by using your mouth for breathing. So, you must be careful about that.  I find that the body really knows how it wants to breathe if given the chance. Nose breathing supports that process.

When people are told to breathe into an area it can cause a tremendous amount of frustration because people don’t always know how to breathe into an area. When I notice a place in my body that is calling my attention, I breathe “with” that area. Keeping that area in my awareness as I breathe. Let’s try that. On the exhale, when you’re breathing out, feel for a sensation that lingers at the end of the exhale.  Consider that an invitation to keep that place in your awareness and on the inhale breath “with” that place.
You will want to notice that that place has some movement now. It is in movement with breath and therefor receiving the nourishment of breath by being more oxygenated and in movement. During the next exhale, see is it the same place that my body is interested in moving or does a different sensation arises somewhere else and then breathe “with” that sensation.  If you did that as a practice, over time, more and more of your body is being engaged in the movement with breathing. Your body is beginning to open more and more for breath. You don’t have to force it. You’ll be experiencing a breathable body. I see that you’re quiet. That you are doing this now.  Can you report a little bit? Helen is speaking to:  as the exhale is leaving, there is a feeling of descent toward the floor. She’s starting to feel herself more in the relationship to gravity.

During the exhale body feel for another signal, a sensation, let it draw your attention. If it does then breathe the next inhale with awareness in that location. Consider the signal from the body saying it needs some movement in this area. It’s being held too tightly for too long. Then notice, oh yeah, breath just followed where my awareness was. Breath always follows awareness in the body.  I felt right off the bat, the top back of my shoulders. Then as I breathed out my shoulders dropped. Now I’m going to keep that in my awareness in that area again.

[Now it’s moving during my inhale. I wasn’t that aware of that area before. My current experience of my body is of receiving the movement of breath. Having more of my body in movement with breath, slows down the breathing processes which is more relaxing. My body is breathing in a way that allows more movement in the phenomenon of in and out. My experience over time as I practice this more is like in meditating and looking into a candle and going through the eye of the flame. Eventually I am being breathed rather than me doing the breathing. I’m not breathing anymore. My body is breathing me. This is the road to allowing my body to breathe and me being totally out of the way. It’s being allowed to move with breath rather than being held. Or, me holding my breath by being tense.

The more of me that moves with breath and the more of me that is nourished by the movement of breath, the healthier my system is. It’s in a relaxed place, is being nourished by oxygen and being nourished by movement. There’s a unity and a continuity in a feeling of wholeness. That breath is touching me everywhere from the inside out.

© Copyright - Robert Litman The Breathable Body at the Vashon Breathing Center