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Colour Breathing for Healing

by Alison Bourne(more info)

listed in light and colour, originally published in issue 73 - February 2002

Energies and Health

If you look back in time to just ten or fifteen years ago, it is nothing short of remarkable the way that holistic therapies have become more widely accepted by the majority of people and medical institutions. Although we are all aware that many treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and reflexology have been practised for thousands of years in many cultures, the masses are only just discovering their full range of benefits in the West. I am sure you have noticed, for example, that in the past two years the media have been writing much more about the chakras, energy centres and meditation, their aims almost to demystify the masses.

The recent explosion and acceptance of Feng Shui theories and principles within the West have encouraged people to explore the idea of energies in their homes and offices and how their environments can affect their health. William Spear in his book Feng Shui Made Easy writes, "What underlies every space is the living energy all of us feel. This is 'feng shui' today - not just 'wind and water' from an ancient culture a thousand years ago but the creation of living spaces like clear, fresh air and free-flowing water..."[1]

Colour disk correspondences on the human body
Colour disk correspondences on the human body

Many Feng Shui books also lean towards the 'inner Bagua' and how the person's inner health and mind, body and spirit affect their outer lives. Lillian Too writes in her book Inner Feng Shui, "By balancing the yin and yang energies at a deep level within yourself, and therefore harmonizing your inner rhythms, you can heighten your perceptions and create a mental shift that will unlock your inner chi, or energy...you can develop inner awareness, mental stability, tranquillity..."[2]

Of course, much of this subject matter is suspect at times to the sceptic journalist, but here we hope that Colour Breathing is a very practical and uncontroversial solution.

Self-Help Therapy

It is over four years now since I had the simple idea to produce a set of disks based on the chakras, to help people relax themselves. I wanted to produce them in such a way that the average person in the street would be 'open' to using them; something that was simple, easy and effective. Having taught meditation for over ten years and using the chakras as focal points for awareness, I was aware that many new students found it difficult to relax themselves or calm their minds. I knew that if something could be created that could help people to overcome this hurdle it could prove to be very beneficial. Many therapists admit that their greatest teachers are their patients. I have found that many patients 'put on a brave face' about their illness or condition for their families, but would really like to be able to relax themselves (and come to terms with any changes occurring in their lives). A positive form of self-help therapy surely gives a patient the sense that they are able to help themselves.

The key to Colour Breathing is simplicity; it incorporates many ideas and practices already known to be of benefit in the field of self-help and relaxation. People of different religions and cultures have used many of the practices below, for thousands of years, to reach a relaxed and meditative state. (I hasten to add that these are not listed in any order of importance):

* The conscious use of the breath, to relax the mind and physical body The physical and subtle bodies can be influenced and greatly affected by using specific breathing techniques. In yoga, breathing exercises are called pranayama; prana means vital energy and yama means control. Breath awareness is one of the keys to reaching a meditative state of being.

* A heightened state of awareness of 'the now' The term 'mindfulness meditation' is used in many Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Sogyal Rinpoche describes "the practice of mindfulness" in his classic book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, "of bringing the scattered mind home..."[3] and of remaining aware of every moment. By focusing on this moment in time, rather than worrying about the past or future, it is easier to reach a state of inner peace.

* The use of Colour Therapy, in this instance, using the Colour Breathing disks as the tool Colour is known to affect us and is an important part of our lives, whether we are talking here about artificial or natural colours in our surroundings or the clothes we chose to wear. Theo Gimbel explains in the foreword to his book The Book of Colour Healing, "The power of colour is part of the natural energy of the universe... It fills our bodies and interacts with our own energies, and has been used since early times to heal."[4] Many clinics and hospitals throughout the world now recognize Colour Therapy as a form of complementary therapy.

* Awareness of the seven major chakra energy centres The seven major chakras have been documented for thousands of years and are the basis for many forms of yoga, meditation and healing techniques. When we become aware of our energy centres, we cannot help but to become more aware of ourselves, of whom we really are. In her book Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith writes, "The raising of energy to higher chakras occurs naturally and spontaneously when we relax deeply and pay attention to all of our chakras."[5]

Chakra means 'wheel' in Sanskrit. Although highly developed in India, our knowledge relating to these energy centres appears to be well documented in many past cultures. Caroline Shola Arewa explains in depth about the ancient chakra systems in her book Opening to Spirit. She says, "Chakras draw energy in from the universal energy field and distribute it out into the energy pathways - known as nadis in the traditional Indian yogis system, meridians in the traditional Chinese healing system - and from here energy radiates out into the aura."[6]

* The use of a focus to calm the mind Some traditional meditation techniques use a 'mantra', a sound or word which is used repeatedly to calm the mind. The soft repetition of any sound is known to calm the mind. With Colour Breathing we are using the colours as the focus.

* The use of the affirmative 'I am' In traditional meditation practice, the 'I am' is known as the 'AUM', the 'all that is' energy that pervades all. When you make a positive affirmation to yourself you are affirming a positive state of being to your mind and your inner being. The power of positive affirmations is now widely accepted by therapists and medical practitioners.

Colour Breathing Trials

It is now two years since we enrolled a group of one hundred volunteers who agreed to participate in Colour Breathing trials. These were created to test the effectiveness of the Colour Breathing disks against traditional creative visualization methods, i.e. having the colours presented in form rather than having to think or imagine the colours. An external reader recorded the words of the book for each session so each trial had a control, music was not allowed for background noise (as it could have easily affected the results), and blood pressures were taken before and after each session for comparison. Only six to eight people sat together for each trial as too many strangers in one session might have made relaxing very difficult! The volunteers also answered a general questionnaire about themselves, one of the questions being about how they honestly handled stress. Of them, 20% practised some form of meditation, yoga or deep breathing. Other members of the group said they generally handled stress by "internalizing the problem", "blowing their top" or "having a drink". Interestingly, only 31% of the group had heard of creative visualization and 59% Colour Therapy.

Sets of the Colour Breathing disks were also given to a few other individuals who wanted to practise using the disks on a regular basis. One was a stressed-out executive who found focusing and time management very difficult. The Colour Breathing disks were stuck on the wall in front of their desks and the disks reminded them to take a deep breath and relax before becoming flustered and blowing a fuse! Another person, going through an emotional phase in his life, looked at the disks each day and wrote a diary about which disk he was attracted to and how he was feeling each day. Another man in his seventies, prone to panic attacks and having recently found out that he had incurable prostate cancer, found relief from focusing on the orange and yellow disks.

If you look at the diagram of the human form and the seven colour circles, you can see quite clearly which area each disk relates to on the body. To keep it simple, the accompanying book doesn't describe chakras in any depth. The aim is simply to focus on each colour whilst remaining aware of your breath and specific areas of the body.

The results of the trials were very positive: 91% found Colour Breathing to be a worthwhile experience. Some feedback included:

* "I enjoyed the feeling of being 'drawn' into the colours. I found it quite hypnotic and relaxing. When I closed my eyes I could still visualize the coloured balls, whereas last time, without the cards, I found it very difficult to visualize colours";
* "I was able to lose myself in the colours";
* "I liked the green disk, it was rather like looking down an avenue of trees".

Another participant who meditates regularly wrote:

* "When looking at the colour cards I could see the colours spiral and rotate. I became more aware of my chakras and could feel them rotating."

The general consensus of the trial participants was that the Colour Breathing Disks "took the effort out of visualization, especially with the first three colours. It usually takes some effort to start and hold a colour".

Conclusion

Colour and breathing are universal concepts and we are encouraged with the responses we are currently receiving with this project. We are hoping to organize further trials with special needs groups in the near future. If you have an interest in becoming involved in these trials, or are involved with a special needs group, please contact us at the address below.

The Colour Breathing disks are also currently being analysed by the Department of Colour Chemistry at Leeds University. The initial goal of reaching out to traditional medicine practitioners has already been achieved. We are very fortunate to have the book foreword written by Mr Michael Dooley, who as well as being a Consultant Gynaecologist is also the Director of Sports Medicine and Science for the British Equestrian Federation. He is intending to use Colour Breathing in his practice.

We are also very fortunate to have the US Composer, Gerald Jay Markoe as the composer for the Colour Breathing music. He understands the concepts and chakras fully as he has been involved in yoga and meditation since the 1960s, and he is also a certified yoga teacher. Much of his music is considered to be classic in the healing and relaxation music field.

References

1. Spear William. Feng Shui Made Easy. Thorsons. p37. ISBN 1-85538-377-2. 1995.
2. Too Lillian. Inner Feng Shui. Rider Books. Back cover. ISBN 0-7126-0737-4. 2000.
3. Rinpoche Sogyal. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Rider Books. p61. ISBN 0-7126-5437-2. 1992.
4. Gimbel Theo. The Book of Colour Healing. Gaia Books. Foreword. ISBN 1-85675-026-4. 1994.
5. Judith Anodea. Wheels of Life. Llewellyn. p38. ISBN 0-87542-320-5. 1998.
6. Arewa Caroline Shola. Opening to Spirit. Thorsons. p6. ISBN 0-7225-3726-3. 1998.

Other Recommended Reading

1. Wilde Stuart. Infinite Self. Hay House. ISBN 1-56170-349-4. 1996.
2. Wills Pauline. Colour Therapy. Element. ISBN 1-86204-044-3. 1997.
3. Collins Terah Kathryn. The Western Guide to Feng Shui. Hay House. ISBN 1-56170-324-9. 1996.

Further Information

Colour Breathing products currently available from shops or our website:
Bourne Alison. Colour Breathing. Energy Press. ISBN 1-904089-00-3. 2001. Price £19.95. Includes a full set of Colour Breathing disks with a stand-free easel.
Bourne Alison. Colour Breathing Affirmation Cards. Energy Press. ISBN 1-904089-02-X. 2001. Price £19.95.
Bourne Alison and Markoe Gerald Jay. Colour Breathing. Audio CD. Energy Press. Price £12.95.
Markoe Gerald Jay. Music for Colour Breathing. Audio CD. Selection of music for use while Colour Breathing. Price £12.95.

Comments:

  1. Walt Morosco said..

    We wish to purchase a Royalty Free License for one of Gerald Jay Markoe's Tracks but I am unable to find a contact. Please forward my request for contact. See our website for reference.


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About Alison Bourne

Alison Bourne is a writer and holistic therapist who specializes in palliative care and works as an aromatherapist at her local hospice. She is a full member of the following bodies: International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA), the Association of Reflexologists (AR), National Federation of Spiritual Healers (NFSH). She is a natural medium and has taught meditation and relaxation for over ten years. You may contact her through the website at www.colourbreathing.com

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