Hu Breath

I’ve had a lot of questions about the Hu-breath that I mentioned awhile back. People want to know what the heck it is and how you do it. As I said in the previous blog, it’s an exercise I do every morning. At least I intend to, and when I skip it I wish I hadn’t. Twenty minutes of it is supposed to be the equivalent of an hour of aerobics, so it’s perfect for people who don’t or can’t do more strenuous exercise.

I learned the technique many years ago from Emilie Conrad, the founder of Continuum and the author of Life on Land (North Atlantic Press). Emilie is a magical woman who has touched the lives of many people, including mine. Emilie does workshops all over the country, and if you get a chance to experience one of them, it’s well worth the time and expense. Since a long time has passed since I learned the Hu-breath from her, it’s quite possible that my way is an adaptation rather than the way she taught it. At any rate, in response to requests on how to do it, and with apologies to Emilie if I’ve dummied it down, here’s the exercise:

Lie on your back. Take a few deep breaths, then hold as much air as you can in your cheeks. In short panting expulsions, breathe out the held breath with enough force to feel the movement all the way down to the soles of your feet. Don’t purse your lips, but keep them rather flat, as if you were Dizzy Gillespie playing a trumpet. Repeat that, pushing out air that you hold in your cheeks in short blasts until it’s gone, then take another breath, hold it, and push it out. As you do this, pay attention to where you feel the pulsing in your body. Notice that you can focus the movement of breath so that it’s stronger in one spot than another, and play with moving it around. If you have tension in some part of your body, move your focus there and allow the breath to pulse there until the tension loosens.

As you do this breathing, you’ll find that your body wants to move. Your spine will want to stretch and undulate, your arms and legs will want to lift and move, your neck will want to stretch and flex. You’ll begin to move like the ocean, in waves. Let all that movement happen, and keep the pulsing breath going.

The first time you do the exercise, you may not be able to do more than two or three minutes. Next time, you may get to five minutes. Every time you do it, you’ll be able to keep up the breathing longer, and after a while twenty minutes will be easy. When you get up, you’ll find that you move more easily, that you feel lighter, that you breathe more deeply.


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