Q: Hey, Roshi, I bought your book but I am having trouble with some of the breathing instructions. I am a beginner. Can you give me some simpler directions to start with?
A: Certainly! If you lay down flat on your back with your body straight & arms at your sides & slowly count backwards down from 108 (counting only on the exhalations) & giving each number about 80 percent of your focus & attention so that all your other thoughts gradually vanish, you will notice that your breathing becomes deep natural & relaxed without any special effort. This is because thinking tends to activate various kinds of tightness in the body (especially the muscles in the chest, throat, jaw, &c.) & such tightness often gets in the way of deep & relaxed breathing.So try this.
Next, try the same thing but sitting up in a relaxed posture (cross legged or kneeling) with your back straight. Doing this same thing in the sitting posture may be a little bit more challenging for you, but after counting down for a few minutes with alert attention you should notice that your breathing relaxes the same as in the lying-down method, & also that you are breathing more from your lower abdomen than from your chest or middle abdomen. Okay? This is very important & interesting. And now try to be alert to the lowest point at which the breathing energy stops when it is full of inhalation & the place it empties from upon the exhale. This lowest point is known as the "Seika Tanden."
This is the natural breathing method. It is the basis for everything else.
In the books I also have a few "forceful" breathing methods. These all start from the natural deep belly-breathing I have just described, but they also involve either lengthening the exhalation or making the exhale explosive like shouting "Hah!" at the sky. They are used for clearing your mind instantly.