Have you ever kept a pace in your life that only seemed to get faster and faster, while at the same time you felt more worn down than ever? There is a view in the traditional eastern philosophy that we are born with the number of breaths for a lifetime that we are meant to have. Whether we pant with shallow breath and quickly move through them, or we lengthen each breath to experience a present attention to life, that is our choice.
What I notice when a person first comes to yoga is they are mostly caught up in the movements, the asana, or postures.
“Am I doing this right?” … the eyes search for the teacher and the form. If the student is uncertain, confused, or “being led” too often in the practice, then her concentration is too outward to experience the true joy of owning the yoga. Embodiment is the key. Embodiment happens only with the breath.
I had an experience when I first began teaching private yoga. I had a student that would practice in her living room with her husband while her nanny held their 2 year old. Each practice we began the same…sitting…centering…counting the breaths..then the guided movement. One day while practicing a simple sun salutation, I noticed her forcing her joints to do the work and a general angst. As we completed the next round, I suggested Shavasana or the usual final resting posture. She spent 5 minutes there, rolled to her side, and sat up. “Ahhh, I was chasing my breath!”, she sighed. Noticing this, allowing her breath to move her body, she stepped gracefully back into the embodiment of her own pace and her own awareness.
Too often in a class experience we are pulled from the experience of our embodied yoga (union) that is meant to ignite our keen perceptions of our ever-evolving self in the world. With 3 to 5 breaths in each posture, there just isn’t time to express. Our breath is the space-maker and the time-slower. Our breath resets our attention to what is important. Our breath is the key to our healing. Inflammation, anxiety, depression, heart-break, grief, memory-loss, awkwardness, the list goes on of what illness a conscious breath practice will attend to.
Understanding this only can come from practice with a qualified teacher with good intention. Subtle awareness in the mind can bring both empowerment and vulnerability. There may be reasons that you were panting before and not diving deep. As you let go of the holding patterns around your breath, magic happens, and so does ease.
Set aside a day to learn these techniques, plan a healing retreat in your home. Carving out the time to really own the yoga may deepen every breath, every practice, and even expand your life.