Simple + Advanced Breath Practice
Like most days.
Today was a day for teaching the simple, yet advanced breath work of really following the breath.
Yoga is really just movement layered on top of conscious attention and awareness of the breath. When we get familiar with the basic shapes of postures, then we can get more advanced. Which is really getting more subtle.
The concept is this: The breath leads the movement.
You can think of it like a light switch. When you flip a light switch, the light turns on. When you flip the switch the other way, the light turns off.
In this analogy, the light switch getting flipped is you breathing in…then you move. When the light switch is flipped the other way and you exhale, you move again.
Movement follows breath. Not the other way around.
You can practice the concept like this:
Stand with your arms at your sides.
Breathe in, and notice your chest and shoulders lifting slightly (breath, then movement).
Breathe out, and notice the way your shoulders and chest lower down naturally (breath, then movement.)
Add on: Follow the natural lift of your upper body as you breathe in with a reach of your arms out and up to the sky.
When you feel your exhale begin, let your arms follow and bring them back down to your sides.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
In our culture, we LOVE movement. Activity. Busyness. And often, we react (move) before pausing and noticing. Or breathing.
And even in yoga classes, there can be a cursory mention of the breath, but the emphasis is on the movement, rather than this following of the breath. I invite you to shift this into more interest in breathing rather than just movement of spine and limbs.
Breathing is the only system in the body that can be regulated voluntarily AND is automatic (it happens without us having to think about it). In yoga, we do a lot of controlling of the breath. The moment we bring our attention to the breath, it usually slows down and becomes smoother, just with our attention.
It can be hard to wait for the breath and then move, and to just let the breath happen. To be a witness to the breath moving and following its lead.
Play a game with the breath like this:
Feel your inhale. Then move.
Feel your exhale. Then move.
The game is, you can’t move until the breath starts. The light doesn’t turn on until the switch is flipped.
Make this game last during your entire practice.
When you let go of control and give it over to your breath, is there a sense of surrender? To know that you don’t always have to be in charge? To let your breath lead the way?
This can be hard at first. It’s nice to have a teacher guide you. Be patient with yourself and curious. Let me know how it goes.
Yours, in following the breath,