NOTE: I have realized that the channels are reversed on this image. The red channel should be on the right side of the body. I will fix this at some point and replace images and videos.
I am working on a series of meditation visualization videos depicting breathing exercises. This particular video deals with deep breathing. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, these practices are referred to as Tsa Lung, Tsa meaning channels and Lung meaning wind or wind-energy. The channels depicted are not part of the physical anatomy, rather they exist energetically. I believe that having the meditator imagine these channels while breathing is unique to the Tibetan tradition, though the channels themselves are part of other Indian traditions.
I am providing a video above diagramming a visualization of the process of deep breathing through both nostrils based on teachings of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Performing deep breathing exercises every day is a critical aspect of mind-body health. Deep breathing practice calms the nervous system, increases focus and allows one to more readily access deep breath and therefore calmer states in times of stress and anxiety. The breath provides support for times of difficulty and a way of flowing with the troubling state rather than resisting it. It also gives the practitioner greater awareness of their natural breathing rhythm and the ability to meet it wherever it is in that moment. Deep breathing is something I demonstrate and practice with almost all of my clients and students. I do breathing exercises every morning prior to meditation, and if I have time for nothing else that day, I make sure to do deep breathing. Doing deep breathing without visualization is always an option and a good way to begin. However, deep breathing with a visualization of the breath moving through the body is even more influential in concentrating and focusing the mind. The channels I am depicting in the video above are my interpretation of verbal teachings received from Robert Thurman during the Nalanda Institute’s contemplative psychotherapy program. I also gained an invaluable understanding of the channels from Yogi Lama Gursam. As I have learned in the Tibetan tradition, each teacher often has a unique way of describing how these channel visualizations work with various breathing techniques. I have done my best to interpret this via the viewing of traditional depictions and verbal teachings.
Instructions (refer to the animated video above):
To begin this practice find a comfortable seated position on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Tilt the chin slightly forward to allow for space in the back of the neck and the direct flow of air from the lower belly to the top of the head.
Imagine or visualize (eyes opened or closed) three straws (channels) running through the center of the body lengthwise. The straw (channel) beginning at the right nostril is red and the straw beginning at the left nostril is white. These channels begin at the opening of the nostril and travel up to near the crown of the head where they bend or curve downward to pass by the nose and end below the navel in the lower belly. These channels attach to each other in the lower belly and are intersected by a wider dark blue-black straw (central channel) that runs from the lower belly to the crown of the head.
Begin by visualizing the air coming through the two straw-like channels situated at the opening of the nostrils. Moving up the channel to the top of the head where they turn through the bend and make their way to the lower belly where they meet the central dark blue channel. Imagine the air transferring into the central dark blue channel and moving up to exit through the top of the head. If it is helpful, steady the inhalation to an even count of 8 and the exhalation to an even count of 8. One may also find it useful to breathe in on a count of four and out on a count of 8. Additionally, experimenting with retaining the full in breath and holding the full out breath for four or more counts may be helpful.
Resources of interest: