Mindful Movement Using the Breath
The breath is an automatic system & without it we would not be here. But in yoga the breath is more than this, it is something we can harness to help us to a deeper relaxed state & to focus the mind. We also can use it as a tool to tell us if we are pushing to hard. The breath can also be harnessed as a practice in itself, pranayama, to help to find a focus in each asana (pose) we do & when we meditate.
We talk about breath in some way every class I teach as I find it’s that important a connection to our practice. This week I asked my students to really see how the breath can be used to help us to hold a pose longer without strain, to find alignment, to feel stronger & more spacious? In this way the asanas are a meditation in motion. To me the asana part of our practice is & should be mindful movement so we stay safe & to get the most out of our practice. The breath is a built in way of allowing us to find the optimum way to do a pose, by creating space, length, grounding & stability.
But the mind also is a great challenge for us in our practice, me included. We think we are focused & paying attention to each moment as we move our bodies, but then you catch yourself jumping into the future…“what should I eat after class?” or hanging out in the past….“why do I always struggle with this pose?” or some other random thought that floats through your mind. Judgement, frustration, boredom, pain….are just a few things you’ll feel in your asana practice. The breath is what helps support with arrises in all our sensations, mind & body.
Here is a great little article on how the breath is seen in Viniyoga
(see http://www.viniyoga.com/about/what-is-viniyoga, for a more info about this style of yoga). Viniyoga is a practice that is taught by Gary Kraftsow, Founder & Director of the American Viniyoga Institute, of whom I’ve drawn inspiration & have had the pleasure to meet at a conference & practice with. It shows how the breath can have such a profound affect on us as we move through asana.
But there is also an image that comes back to me whenever I think of the mind in our practice. It is those thoughts that keep coming & going, that remind me of watching the clouds drift through the sky. Sometimes you notice them, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes they are more serious, like storm clouds, other times more gentle, like a fluffy white ones & the odd time the sky is clear & you see the beautiful blue sky. But just like the clouds, thoughts are no more solid than the clouds, if you tried to hold one, it would fall through your fingers. Since visualization is such a strong tool for a lot of us, I use it often in my classes.
We tend to see our thoughts as something powerful that we can’t control & I try to show that we don’t have to feel overwhelmed or annoyed by them. At times we may use things to distract ourselves from them, a movie, TV, reading, social media, even substances. These are temporary distractions, that are not all inherently bad, but can become addictive when we constantly use them as a way to stop us from hearing all the things our mind says. We can’t always control these thoughts that come into our mind & even more, we find it difficult not to go into the story that lies behind these thoughts. So to me this image of the thoughts more like clouds allow me to observe these thoughts & my breath as the wind that can help shift & change them. That these thoughts no are more part of me as the clouds in the sky are. No matter what amount or type of clouds that are floating in the sky, behind them is always the blue sky of the mind that is always beautiful & peaceful. Sometimes we get a glimpse of the clear mind, but eventually another thought always come. The breath is a great way to deal with this & with practice, we see more & more of that blue sky, clear mind.
So next time when you are doing your practice, try to remember thoughts can not be held, are not solid. They can shift & change & what we see is open for interpretation. The sensations we feel in the body, are not all this is there & will shift & change with awareness. The breath is that connection between our sensations in our mind, body & even emotions. Using the breath can be a bridge to our Inner & outer Self. When connected to that place of our True Nature, Light, we access the sun behind the clouds, that is always shining & bright. With that, everything we do becomes Mindful Movement.
For a little extra something to help you in your practice, consider taking a meditation class, a workshop or retreat. Go to yogamcc.com to see what great things are going on & join in for some in-depth exploration.
I have 3 spaces left in a mini Self Care Retreat called Empower & Connect her is Cochrane (where I live) in connection with The Cave Spa some of you might have heard me talking about. This is an opportunity for women to get together to support & inspire each other & to help you body feel oh so relaxed & good :) Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-819-9790 to register.
Anne Cox E-RYT 500