I spent part of the flight to China pondering and actively studying the question of breathing.
Breathing takes multiple forms; breathing of ordinary form can't be readily transformed into conscious breathing, and attempts to do it artificially can be dangerous. True breathing, transformed breathing, is an intimate and subtle action that is not intiated so much as experienced.
In the intimate study of self, breathing ceases to be an aggressive function. It quiets itself and of its own accord acquires a quiescent nature, one that resides within the body, rather than expressing itself as a mechanical action. So already, you see, it is a more conscious action, which provides the substances necessary for a permanent connection with sensation.
This residence takes place at the base of the spine. The true breath is tethered here, where it forms what we might call a pocket of silence. Within this silence, this stillness, there is a quality that takes in a finer substance which is different than the ordinary action of air. When connected to this yogic force, the breathing naturally subsides until far less mechanical action than usual is required to provide the body with its necessary supply of oxygen. One inhales much less than usual; breaths become measureably small, even tiny, and can still fully satisfy.
This is in part because a naturally informed- inwardly formed- breathing is able to work at a much higher level of efficiency. It so happens that even in periods of physical exertion, inner breathing of this kind allows one to engage in vigorous activity without a great increase in the action of the diaphragm and lungs, as long as one is attentive and in relationship with the root nature of breath. The stillness, in other words, has an inviolable quality; breath is a quality that belongs to stillness, rather than stillness being a quality that belongs to breath.
When the breath becomes naturally available in this way- which results from a connection through attention, and not, generally, by way of any range of contrived mechanical exercises designed to invoke it- an intimate study of Self becomes more possible. Placing the attention quite intentionally at the root of the spine here allows for an investment of prana not only at this place, but also in the region of the solar plexus and the sex organs; in this manner, the entire lower system of chakras is fed with a more harmonious energy which produces a grounded state that notably increases the magnetism of the lower center of gravity.
It's sometimes possible to evoke this action through a directed attention, but it isn't truly necessary, since yogic breath arises naturally, when needed, and at the behest of higher forces. It's uncertain whether the initiate even can use excess energy acquired through more forced methods in any truly practical manner; energy of this kind can turn into a kind of negative emotion which can be quite poisonous.
Breathing deepens in direct proportion to inner awareness. That is, only insofar as inwardness is attentively cultivated will a conscious form of breathing arise and manifest, and this is a consequence of a certain kind of magnetism that develops through an intimacy towards one's being.
The deposit of prana, which Gurdjieff deferred to as coating one's parts to form a higher Being-body, inevitably leads to a different perspective on the activities in life. It might be said that this action becomes directly transformative, rather than idealistically transformative, since it eventually provides a bridge to parts of feeling that work with much higher energies than the ordinary self.
May your soul be filled with light.