Many of you have heard me talking about this in class. The Breathing Posture...
It is commonly taught that Yoga is one long breathing exercize. Our work in class always begins with coming into the breath. This can be done in a number of ways but for me simplicity is the best way to arrive. We bring our awareness onto the rise and fall of the belly. Not the breath itself but the effect of the breath on the body.
For many of us this may have been the first time that day we have allowed our awareness to fall inwards and onto the body.
We use the awareness in this way to arrive in the class, on our mats and in our bodies. There are roughly 540 breaths in each 90 minute session and we try to be fully present for each and every one. This is how we can expand our practice beyond mere shapes in space and take it to a deeper level. Coming into close alignment with breath doesn't happen over night and this is why it is called a practice.
At the studio we are working on becoming more embodied through our Asana (postures), breath work, meditation and chanting. These are all different gateways but working toward the same goal. This is the unification of body and mind. We use the breath to help weave these two things together.
For me breath is the most important factor in my practice. Whether a movement is timed to the length of a breath or you know you have 5 breaths to expand and explore a posture, it is simply the focus on the breath that gives depth to the experience. It can seem like an impossible task when we are new to the practice, making sure each breath is long, slow and controlled, when there seems so much else to focus on. Over time it becomes easier and through breath the postures become lighter and easier to maintain. When the focus is not on the burning of a thigh but the lightness of the breath, we can stay and find new depth to our asana.
So breathing posture..... what is this???? For many years I was arriving into my asana and that was it... I'd stay... I'd breathe... and then the class would move on. My body was improving and my strength increased but this plateaud. I have realised that this is because if we stop the breath from truly moving the body, then we are stopping the natural opening and expansion that goes deeper than the muscles.... to the core of our energetic body. So we do our asana, but we work in a way that allows there to be lightness, we hold only where we need and the breath enters everywhere else. An asana never ends... we never arrive... and there is no final ideal for any posture. It is living, it is breathing. When we think we have arrived, find the breath and you will see a new level opening downward into the body and greater experience.
So allow the ribs to expand, allow the pelvis to tilt, allow the spine to twist and curve..... As long as the posture is being held with integrity, all joints are supported and in correct alignment then the breath can work us in and around a posture. We don't add movement or exaggerate it.... we just let it be, and this can only come if we are truly aware of where there is space for the breath.
It is through the somatic meditation work that I have been engaged in over recent years that this has really clarified. Through those meditative practices I got to know my body far more intimately than just through Asana alone. So now when I come into a posture, if I cannot find the breath, full slow and rhythmic then I know I have gone too far or I am not yet strong enough for that. The breath is a signifier along the way. If it is there deep and resounding then you can go forward. If it is snatched and shallow it's time to step back. The breath will let you know when to take rest and when to go deeper.
So we listen to our bodies through our breath, we try to stay closely aligned to it so that we can hear what it is telling us. We work so one day every single breath has our full awareness. When this happens we will find it is just the beginning.