Structural and Functional Integration acknowledges the breath as primary in enabling the body to realize a new potential, the body organizes around the breath and the way that it expresses stimulating a pre-movement in the whole body system. Breath is something that few are truly aware of until it is realized, like the heartbeat and all of our visceral functions, they operate with or without our awareness and when the awareness occurs there is a profound sensation of inclusion.
Support in the body and the way we breathe are mirrored to each other in the anatomy and physiology of the science of movement and life. When the posture and breath are realized while lying, sitting, standing or moving a sense of support, direction and ease have more potential and Budokon demonstrates its power by making the breath a central part of the practice and life.
In the early stages of development the primitive streak emerges and the dermal layers differentiate into the central nervous system, the heart, and the respiratory diaphragm setting the foundation of primary visceral functions and the fascial web of terrestrial life. To see pictures of an embryo develop is truly an amazing sight and a testimony to the wisdom and love of life. The inference derived from the stage conception of development, in recognition that structure and function are two sides of the same coin, is awe inspiring and enlightening with the potential to shake ones perception of reality loose.
The relationship and integration of the breath with visceral and somatic structure, function, and form are sown into the system from the beginning and it is only organic that one be able to navigate these sensations and emotions from a witness position. When the fascial matrix resources from the issuing mesoderm it spreads to permeate the entire form of the being literally encasing all of the components of who you are, a virtual container of expression from the breath of life. The body is able to achieve verticality because of the buoyant attributes of being in a fluid filled body existing in a fluid filled gravity.
Diaphragms and membranes exist in the feet, legs, knees, pelvis, thorax, and cranium and provide pressurized segments of fluid throughout the body. Humans are similar in form to the Michelin tire man and when one pressurized segment loses its resilience the whole system is affected. Breathing through the mouth as opposed to nose breathing is associated with weakening the respiratory diaphragm thus weakening the entire diaphragmatic and pressurized system.
Breathing through the mouth stimulates sympathetic neuro-receptors causing a sympathetic response to the entire nervous system of fight-or-flight, complicating and even inhibiting the integration process whereas nose breathing stimulates a para-sympathetic response of a calm, cool, and collected consciousness that enables integration, hence how you breathe is how you live.
Budokon rolling breath is the way to engage the oneness of breath to our practice and life. Whether seated in zazen, or in motion, rolling breath is the vehicle of cadence in breath awareness. In zazen, or hero, start by grounding through the lower legs into the mat with more of an intention than action by adding weight from where the pelvic floor meets the posterior calcaneous to where the legs meet the mat with direction inferiorly, literally yielding into the mat.
Rock the pelvis anterior and posterior to find the sweet spot of support and ease, positioning the pelvis on the heels or Achilles tendons. Scan the core to see if the abdominals and pelvic floor are activated and if they are, incorporate softening them in your inquiry of support and ease in this posture. Position the belly on the pelvis, the heart on the belly and the shoulders on the heart. Stacking these segments in this way allows for natural alignment to govern the support.
Once ease and support is discovered from the visceral space at the thoracic inlet of the shoulders to the bottom of the pelvic floor, position the head on top of the shoulders and add subtle direction superiorly. The visceral cranium and the neuro-crainium come together where the mandible and maxilla meet at the TMJ, creating tension, and pressure in the head unless it is thought to keep the jaw soft, resting the tongue in the floor of the mouth and the eyes in their sockets.
Imagery of the sacrum having weight like a rock with the head having lift like a balloon tethered by a string to the sacrum may help. Finally, envision the top of the crown pushing the bottom of a fluffy cloud with more of an intention than action so that a system wide response of support, direction and ease can emerge. The posture of just sitting is fully realized when all of the elements of support, direction and ease have potential in all 3 primary axis of the body.
Once the (y) or vertical axis of support is realized begin to bring awareness to the inhalation mirroring the exhalation by rolling the breath in with a beat, count, or time of 4 seconds on the inhale and rolling out with the same cadence on the exhale. "Rolling" the breath in on the inhale and out on the exhale brings to mind the Japanese folk art paintings that exhibit a huge wave rolling and cresting in the sea only to return again. The breath should be full body from the bottom of the lungs to the top, side-to-side, and front to back. Counting the breath enables the mind to focus on the predictability of the pattern and to be aware of its ebb and flow without being distracted by the minds viscous cycle of thoughts.
Research shows that each individual has an average of 16,000 thoughts a day, and that these same thoughts reoccur every single day. Creating a new thought to not think about the cycle of thoughts enables the whole body to escape the cycle. The breath has potential in the x, y, and z axis of the body so begin to observe a subtle lift on the inhale and a yield on the exhale in the y axis, observe the breath and its expansive potential left to right or (x) axis through the sides of the ribs, and its potential from front to back in the (z) axis.
Continue to just sit without compromising the vertical support and breathe in all 3 planes with awareness on the rhythm and expansive potential of the breathe to rise, fall, ebb, and flow. Breathing in this way accommodates the realization of support, direction and ease in all three planes.
The posture and the breath are both reciprocal in structure and function and again, when the mind begins to stray from the rhythm of the breath, the thoughts that keep it trapped in a viscous cycle will return. When this happens in practice or in everyday life the support, direction, and ease we seek is fleeting. Maintaining awareness of the breath in the midst of our circumstances is where the freedom from the viscous cycle can be found. When the practice or our circumstances are overwhelming simply return to the most authentic expression of who you truly are, your breath.
When in motion the breath and the movement should be at the same pace so that the support, direction and ease can be realized and the circumstances will soon lose its sting, this is the design of the para-sympathetic nervous system. Simply being aware of the posture and rhythm of breathing can provide the opportunity for shifts in perception and life to occur. Rolling breath is the technique used to maintain awareness in Budokon and can provide the vehicle to escape the viscous cycle that keeps us enslaved to unfruitful potentials.