This technique “Tension in Tanden" is among the more difficult breathing exercises to perform, but once practiced, it’s actually very easy to perform. The “Tanden Center” is the term used in Zen Meditation for describing the “seat of spiritual power”, believed to reside in one’s diaphragm. To create tension in the Tanden Center, put the abdominal muscles and diaphragm in an isometric opposition.
Generally, the diaphragm contracts in order to pull air into the lungs, then rests while one breathes out with the use of the abdominal muscles. The technique aims to maintain tension in the Tanden by making the diaphragm work harder during inhalation through resisting the abdominal muscles, and making the abdominal muscles work harder by resisting the diaphragm during exhalation.
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Therefore, the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm never totally relax, instead traps tension in between them as the breathing technique carries on.
Once one learns how to make and hold tension, they can experiment by holding less or more tension as they meditate, to find what works for them. The technique helps to stabilize the wandering or racing mind, through maintaining focus on the “Tanden Center” and on one’s breath.
Learn Pranayama Techniques
The Pranayama breathing techniques covers seven approaches to breathing. The most basic foundational breaths that need mastering are Abdominal Breathing. Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi Pranayama, and Dirgha Pranayama.
Until these techniques are mastered, don’t try to practice the more “esoteric” breathing techniques. These four techniques lay the basis for the others; nevertheless, they’re also very powerful techniques, so slowly build the practice and do the basic guidelines before trying any of the techniques.
This is also called “Natural Breath” or “Diaphragmatic Breath”. It is done through lying down on a “corpse pose” with palms facing up. One starts to draw awareness to their breath in a slow and deep manner. Become conscious of the abdomen, and feel it rise softly with inhalation, and falls with exhalation. Notice the breath moving all through the body, and nourishing the body.
Relax the face, and release the eyes’ inner corners. Relax and soften the throat. Allow the abdomen and stomach to soften, as well as the digestive organs to relax. Simply breathe deeply into the abdomen, down to the pelvis. Find breath rhythm that’s smooth, fluid, and calming to the body.
This is also known as “Complete Breath”, “Three-Part Breath”, or “Yogic Breath”. Once the Abdominal Breathing technique is mastered, one can move on this technique. Dirgha Pranayama is done through a comfortable sitting position with the spine straight.
The front of the body is expanded, chest open, and shoulders back and down. Place a hand on the belly, and the other on the rib cage’s side. Start to do the Abdominal Breathing –once this breathing is mastered continue to Dirgha breath.
Inhale into the belly, and deeply fill the abdomen. The breath fills one’s rib cage and expands the ribs. Then, draw the breath up to the chest and clavicles, and feeling the collarbones slightly rise as the lungs are filled all the way to the top.
When the lungs has been completely filled, sip a bit more air through the nostrils. Then, slowly exhale, permitting the breath to drop from the clavicles, chest, rib cage, and the abdomen. While exhaling, contract the abdominal muscles to ensure they squeeze out all stale air. Continue the breathing practice.
This is also called “Victorious Breath” or “Ocean Sounding”. The sound made from practicing this breathing technique is described as “gentle snore” or “soft hissing sound”. To create the sounding, take long, slow, and deep breaths via the nostrils and relax. Let go of all the tension in the body. Lengthen the inhaling and exhaling as much as you can.
Allow the breath’s sound to start to create a soft hissing sound while inhaling and exhaling. The sound must be continuous and smooth. Through the mouth, whisper “home” sound while exhaling. Draw the “mmmm” sound as long as possible to create the hissing sound. Then whisper the same word when inhaling and exhaling. Listen to the breath’s sound and keep it even and smooth.
Hold the palm of the hand a couple of inches from the mouth like a mirror in front of the face.
Imagine that you’re about to “fog up” the mirror with your breath. Slowly exhale through open mouth on the imaginary mirror, imagine fogging the mirror with the breath. Notice the hissing, whispering sound naturally made. Repeat this practice a number of times.
When you’ve mastered it, close the mouth and exhale “fogging the mirror” through the nostrils, maintaining the soft hissing sound. The back of the throat will have a slight constriction that can be felt when making the sound.
Continue practicing this technique during inhalation and exhalation, permitting the breath to become slower, more refined, and smoother.
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