November 14, 2012

Barnette's Breathing Exercise

No. The drawing above is not in Barnette's book (it is from Gray's Anatomy), but it does illustrate the part of the body she concerns herself with. And if you've been a longtime reader of this blog, you know I have a thing for old things, half of my mind being in the 19th century. But I digress. 

Back to Barnette (see previous post for context). I include the following passage from her book (it is on page 11) since the exercise found there is one that was taught to me by Margaret Harshaw, a musical descendant of the great Garcías. She called it 'The Walking Exercise.' Curiously, Barnette's book is the only place I have found it in black and white. I was taught to do the exercise with intense vigor, which makes perfect sense if you knew the person and her approach.  Is it useful? I can say yes to that. But one must be very careful not to strain which puts great stress on the heart. This we know from yogic teachings which warn of holding the breath and applying bandhas (locks) inappropriately. 

The one exercise that I give, when I deem any necessary, is: Stand squarely on both feet with your arms hanging loosely at your sides, your fingers clasping gently the folds of your dress that lie against them; then shut your teeth almost together, and through the small aperture that is left, suck in the air steadily with a little noise,— imagine your body to be an empty cask, into which you arc pouring water or air, in a small stream, that will touch the bottom first,— then slowly fill up the body—vessel—to the brim, (be careful not to move, voluntarily, a single muscle; do not think about abdominal, or lateral, or transverse pressure, or muscles or anything except of filling your cask as full and as slowly as possible); then, when your lungs are comfortably full of air, draw in the pit of the stomach, as if about to ejaculate a deep, prolonged O Hi (try the experiment of the oh, two or three times) then shut your mouth and walk slowly across the room; when you reach the other side, turn around, relax every muscle and let your breath exhale quickly. Do this at four different times during the day; also at night, after you are in bed, lie on your back, with your arms at your side, inhale your breath slowly, through a nearly closed mouth, then exhale just as slowly; do this four times, with intervals of a few minutes between. When you once become accustomed to the sensation of well filled lungs, you will take sufficient breath for every need, as instinctively and unconsciously as a bird or a babe.

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