In some of the classes this week we began with a cellular breathing visualisation. Everyone began lying prone on their mats (being face down supports the Parasympathetic Nervous System). I began talking them through the visualisation – first with awareness of natural breath movement, I then moved on to the story of how oxygen and nutrients in the blood circulate around the body via smaller and smaller blood vessels. Ultimately blood reaches the tiniest blood vessels – the capillaries – here fluid passes through the walls of the capillaries and thence to the cells. The fluid becomes cellular fluid.
Those in class then visualised the movement of fluid from around each cell, through the very intelligent cell wall, into the cell and out again, into the surrounding fluid – the interstitial fluid – a kind of sea that the cells are floating in. This is the process of cellular breathing. It is distinct from the breathing that happens through the filling and emptying of the lungs.
With practice, it’s possible to develop awareness to a degree of such exquisite sensitivity that the breathing of the cells can be sensed – as a vibration, or undulating rhythm or pulsation. It’s easier to sense the breathing of the cells with the assistance of someone’s hands to your body, someone who is also focusing on the breathing of the cells.
The ‘mind’ of the cells is meditative with qualities of being-ness, absolute rest and presence – where there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Focusing on the breathing of the cells can be a soothing way to begin yoga practice when the day has been filled with lots of busy ‘doing’. It’s also a way of affirming our essential selves – harking back to when our existence began as fusion of cells and then cells dividing and dividing.
Doug Mackenzie in ‘Exploring Body-Mind Centering’ says “…we discover yogic principles in our own language through Body-Mind Centering (BMC). We begin by approaching a state of awareness of respiration, both lung or external respiration and cellular or internal respiration. Here we feel life force; breathing and moving are two partners in one inner dance.”
Some suggestions for music that can help you get into the mind state of cellular breathing: ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ by Arvo Part, ‘Into the Dawn’ by Accadia.
Cellular Breathing is fundamental to healing approaches that I studied on Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy Training with Linda Hartley. I’ve also practised cellular breathing during workshops with Katy Dymoke of Touchdown Dance and Embody-Move, and with Yoga Teacher Donna Farhi.
Donna also has a fun approach to the cells – on a training many years ago in Vancouver we sang a song that went something like this (to a jaunty tune):
“Every little cell in my body is happy
Every little cell in my body is glad
I’m so happy, I’m not sad
Every little cell in my body is glad”