Tesshin wanted to try something different this week. A fundamental part of Zen is seated meditation, and a fundamental part of sitting is the breath. Tesshin noted that most religions have things in common like special foods and rituals, but Buddhism is set apart by its special emphasis on the breath.
For this week, Tesshin wanted to share a technique of breath exercises developed by Wim Hof which can strengthen our practice. The idea is that we would do these breathing exercises before Zazen in order to get our mind and body in the right frame of reference.
Basically, the practice has us breathing in and out for a number of times followed by a period of holding one’s breath. The key period is when holding the breath. The idea is to watch your mind while not breathing. What goes on? Can you be with the discomfort? What do you observe in your mind while holding your breath? At first, there may be worry that you will not make it for the 30, 60, or 90 seconds in which you must hold the breath. The worry may become panic and this state of panic may launch you into a whole discussion in your mind about breathing. However, after a few times, a sort of tranquility sets in. You may begin to trust your body. Pretty soon you are swept up in the pattern of breathing and holding. Ah, another path to a quiet mind – this is the idea!
Tesshin asked the group to review some information about the Hof breathing method and give it a try. We will then discuss if it helped with our practice when we meet again.
Brief overview of Wim Hof
Brief explanation of the Wim Hof method
Next, HERE are a few youtube videos which you can follow to do the breathing exercises.
NOTE: It should be noted that performing these breathing exercises are not necessary for a quality Zazen experience. Like any other technique, you should start slowly and carefully and discontinue if you feel discomfort. If you find that they enhance your practice, great. If you find that they do not work for you, that is OK as well.