B is for
“Find your breath.”
“Notice the rhythm of your natural breath.”
If you’ve been to my yoga classes, you know I like to refer
to the breath. A LOT. Like, all the time. We spend a lot of time observing the breath,
finding its patterns, becoming aware of how the yoga postures change the breath
and the patterns of the breath, even finding how the breath can lead to movements and
awareness in the hips and feet (no, really.
It’s super subtle and so amazing.
Your breath awareness can be felt
in your feet.)
So what gives? Why is
the breath such a big deal in yoga that the teacher begins to repeat herself so
The breath and awareness of the breath is what makes the
practice yoga versus simple stretching. It enlivens the body and mind. The breath draws fresh oxygen to every cell in your body, increasing the life force energy within, also known as Prana. The breath also becomes a focus that relaxes and
calms the mind to move toward a meditative awareness, you begin to de-stress and release tension held in
In other words, the breath is what moves your practice from
static physical expressions to a state of being fully alive and present in
every cell of your body and mind.
Think about coming into a particularly challenging pose, say a
balance pose like Tree. Maybe you can
draw your foot up to your inner thigh...if you hold your breath. You can balance almost without a wiggle. You look awesome. But how long can you really maintain the
pose? 10 seconds? Your muscles, lungs, brain, all need
oxygen. You begin to wobble and, frustrated, fall out of the pose.
Now, if you come into the same pose with a steady, even,
comfortable breath, you may only place your foot at the calf (which is
great!). But you can breathe, you can
maintain the pose for many breaths, maybe even many minutes, because the mighty
breath is re-oxygenating you and delivering fresh energy to your body. Your body and mind stay aware, full of life, and focused.
Breath gives life. Breath enlivens your yoga practice. It draws you deeper, allowing release, and maintaining stability.
Breathe is life.
(This is part of a series of blog installments
for the A to Z Challenge. I will be covering each letter of the alphabet
as it applies to the practice of yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry.)