Haiku and the breath

Haiku has a way of taking you away from the worries of the world and ground you in the present moment. It is sometimes referred to as “one-breath poetry” which means it can be recited between the in-breath and the out-breath. In a brief moment it can take you away from the cares of the world and root you in the present moment. Being mindful of your breath can also help you to be in the moment – it’s a simple and powerful way to anchor yourself.

I have recently been reading an interesting book called “Breath” by James Nestor, who explains how, as a society, we have been going backwards in evolution with the way we breathe. He explains how breathing through your nose is healthier and how mouth breathing can contribute to a long list of health risks. I have been practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis which has helped me learn how to breathe deeper. I’m aware that I breathe through my nose most of the time and while I’m sleeping (my partner has confirmed!) and have never thought too much about how the way we breathe can affect our health. My breathing used to be mostly in my chest, because I wasn’t taking in the deep belly breath of life. As a result I was a shallow breather, not being able to take life in, which contributed to stress, which then added to the anxiety that I was suffering from. The process of breathing in and out allows for fresh oxygen to pass into the blood and removes carbon dioxide from the body. Deep breathing is especially helpful for managing stress, and is a mindful practice that provides numerous health benefits.

By practicing and becoming more mindful of my breath, I found that it is a good technique to relieve some of my suffering. If you practice yoga, you may know that the breath is mentioned a lot throughout a class. There are many different yogic breathing techniques that are used to unwind the body and put you into a state of relaxation. Prana is the vital life force and the breath is said to carry the life force that puts us in a state of relaxation and calm.

Here is a list of some of the different breathing techniques:

1. Pursed lip breathing

2. Diaphragmatic breathing

3. Breath focus technique

4. Lion’s breath

5. Alternate nostril breathing

6. Equal breathing

7. Resonant or coherent breathing

8. Sitali breath

9. Deep breathing

10. Humming bee breath (bhramari)

Since haiku is thought of as one-breath poetry and because it’s written in the present tense, its healing benefits made me more aware of the connection between the breath and the briefness of the poetry. When we slow down our breath we are able to relax and go with the flow. When we learn how to slow down everything we do in life, we become more present to be in touch with our feelings and our five senses. A haiku is filled with possibility, a subtle suggestion rather than telling, which gives space for the reader to experience the writer’s haiku moment with their own interpretation. 

Learning about haiku, and writing haiku poetry, have helped me to be more present and much more aware of my breath. The philosophy of the haiku way of life meshes the present with the beauty and creativity of the nature that surrounds us. It provides a simple approach to our everyday experiences and can create a safe space of calm and tranquility: a place to reflect, to feel, and to breathe in the essence of life. The breath is a steady air-stream connecting body and mind . . .  It is the current of life.

Click on the link below to learn more about the list above of breathing techniques.


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