AY172 Stopping the Breath



  • using a concept of part of the cycle of the breath, and adding profoundly gentle movements in a variety of positions, the student increases his/her sensitivity and awareness to discover habits in stopping the breath (and, of course, paradoxically, releasing exactly the holding behaviours). Through this process, the system itself re-calibrates the Atlas and Axis.

Lesson Outline

  • Breath holding process (simplified)
    • Holding the breath before exaltation: let the lungs fill with air, then hold the breath, then stop holding the breath.
    • Holding the breath before inhalation: let air out of the lungs and, at the end of exaltation, hold the breath. Then stop holding the breath.
  • “With most people, one of them is prominent… this is reflected in the structure of the chest and way of standing…”
  • Steps/Positions. In each position, take time to observe each process of holding. It may be productive, as well, to detect correlates of holding throughout the body:
    • On the back (#1). When the breath is stopped, pay attention to how the breath continues.
    • On Stomach (#2), heels sideways, toes together, arms forward above the head; head resting on forehead
    • On stomach (#3) heels inwards, head raised, supported by hands under chin, elbows close together.
    • (#4) On stomach as in #3, using the hands to turn the face right & left. “with many, the movement to the right and left is very different. Pay attention so it will become same same, and light”
    • (#5) On the stomach, arms long (as in #2)
    • on back, knees bent (#6) catch the hair behind head, left & right hands. Make slight pulling movement of the head with the hands and elbows. Then (6b) pull more with right hand… then the left. Then (6c) again in the center. Finally, with the help from the legs, with the help of the hands, slightly turn right and left.
    • (#7) On back, knees bent, put fingers of one hand in a line from the crown to forehead, then the fingers of the other hand, in between. Tilt head to right with smallest movement and return.
    • (#7a) Sit, soles together, fingers on head as in previous step. Tilt to right and back. Then to left and back. “… continue making the movement smaller & smaller, exactly in the middle”
    • (#8) Lie on stomach, arms forward (as in #2). explore the two ways to stop the breath. Then raise elbows the smallest amount and return them. Repeat. Explore the two ways ot stop the breath.
    • (#9 & 9a) On stomach (as in #2), hold the hair, as above. Toes as if standing. lift elbows, head and pull hair. Push with toes. Release & repeat. Check holding of breath as this is done. Then use right arm to help nose turn to right, and the other way. Notice holding.
    • (#9b) Tips of fingers on top. Lift elbows and head from floor. Then tilt head to right & left (not turning). Check holding of breath pattern.
    • (#9d) Hold hair with hands and turn, only turning.
    • (#10). On back, legs standing. Lift head with hair, helping with the two legs. Lightly turn head back and forth.
    • Stand

Focus of Moshe’s Teaching

focus or key principles that are made explicit in the teaching

  • Lengthening the cervical spine using the tool of pulling the hair and pushing from the feet/pelvis.
  • Calibration – making increasingly small movements on either side of the origin (center of axis) to find center.
  • Using long levers to amplify the movement, allowing clarification. Example of the long lever is the tips of the fingers on the head to the elbow
  • Exploring the process of transition from inhalation and exhalation by stopping the breath
  • We use a variety of combinations of differentiation and regression depending on the difficulty of movement — but are usually unaware of this. Thus, by setting a movement that is do-able in a differentiated way (with attention), then through using increasingly challenging movements he highlight when a transitions to the more regressive (less differentiated) movement.


  • “I found the lesson sometimes annoying”
  • Regarding holding the chin:
    • “I totally started to feel nauseous after holding the chin in the hands, lying on the front so I had to take breaks from that point…”
    • “I needed more input on cradling my chin in my hands and making the line on top of my head.”


  • “I found the lesson sometimes fascinating but overall very powerful in the organization of my head and neck and from there down the whole spine.”
  • Changes in ease in sinuses & breathing
  • “When I got up after the lesson, my first awareness was of the upper ribs in front. then I noticed I was standing like a ski jumper. My forefeet were much more planted than previously.”
  • I had a serious disc and vertebral lock up, apparently in the C1-2 areas, with attendant muscle spasm on left side and headache, that were very helped by this lesson, by both the breathing and the hair pulling components. Definitely could use in FIs for these sorts of issues.
  • how much this lesson helped my neck. I took my English riding lesson this afternoon which also hugely helps my spine so long as I don’t trot or canter. My spine feels like a unit again, from head to pelvis, and headache is gone, no neck muscle spasms or tension.

Related ATMs

Also see Theme Breathing:


Share Your Insights (ideas, principles, strategies, experiences, …)

  • Add your thoughts about the lesson here.
    • Some curiosity about what people found as their habit, to hold the breath in or out when moving.
    • Some of us have a habit from ATM – breathing out while starting the movement. The Yoga people who are instructed to breathe in while starting an action might have a different result.
  • Thinking about the connection between the movements of C1-C2 and stopping the breath.
    • In the Alexander Technique, a lot of attention is given to allowing this area to be free and lengthened, so that we can regain the integrity of the spine.” Hillary King, MSTAT
    • Holding the breath, when unintentional, is associated with fear and anxiety. Is it significant if the holding is at a specific part of the breath cycle? Cases have been made connecting holding the breath to emotional attachment patterns such as holding on, or avoidance.
    • One possible story connecting these:
      Through our habituated and persistent anxiety, we hold C1/C2 in a rigid formation. The anxiety represents the unconscious wish to not feel or express certain emotions. This expression might be possible if the muscles in the back of the throat were relaxed. Tightening these muscles requires tightening of muscles associated with C1/C2.”
      Based on this, the implications for “treatment” or education might be:

      • The habitual holding causes a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including dizziness, sleep apnea, depth perception issues, balance issues, headache (associated with MCH, migraine and/or cluster) and perhaps some connection with TMJ. Emotionally, as mentioned, it can be related to attachment issues, as well as more conventional anxiety issues as well as depression. paradoxically, I wonder about violent outbursts.
      • Because these issues are deeply ingrained and are associated with tightly held definitions of the self (beliefs, values, etc) that innervate one’s cognition, emotional spectrum and posture, cognitive approaches to “letting go” are infrequently effective.
      • Also because the issues are ingrained, change needs to be sufficiently small to allow the system to integrate the changes. Further, any change needs to be supported by the anatomical structure in gravity the instant the person moves.
  • Other questions:
    • What could be the connection with reducing Hyperventilation

–  rblack Dec 8, 2017 Rob Black

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