What does it mean to experience a breath-based practice? In modern times we are often bombarded with quick movements, one after the other in order to get to the peak pose, to work, or even to complete the day swiftly. We often forget to stop and notice our surroundings and feel our breath into the deepest parts of our being. Tension arises, but we are too fixated on the future to notice the subtle signs our own body is providing.
Stop – and take notice.
Take a deep breath and notice where it lingers in the rib cage. Is it shallow, up near your collar bones leaving so much more to be explored? How is the space between your eyebrows? Is it riddled with tension creating your face to be tight and ridged? How’s that jaw doing? Are your back molars clenched together? You get the idea…
Now, let’s start over. Begin to inhale and feel it entering your nostrils, flowing up into your sinus cavity. Feel the upward expansion of your sternum and keep breathing inwards until the lowest part of your stomach expands like a balloon. Begin to exhale the air starting from your lower ribs and let go of the tension surrounding that area. Feel your shoulders soften and the scapula glide down your back, creating more space in your heart center. Relax your jaw and melt the flesh away from your cheekbones all the way up into the space in between your eyebrows.
The concept of finding your tension and feeling it, can be painful. So often we have spent countless years of our lives pretending that we are “fine”, and accidentally built armor to protect ourselves from the suffering. The practice of yoga is about learning how to sit with that discomfort and then to release it, little by little. Start making friends with the parts of you that have been hidden away, in a chamber so deep that only your unconscious knew it existed. A universe resides within you, you are not broken – you are prefect. Even if it feels like that tension is ripping you apart, it made you who you are, so breathe into it.
You can utilize this technique on and off the mat. During a yoga practice take the time in each asana to breathe into the tight spaces and release a little bit of tension (maybe it’s just relaxing the space in between the eyebrows). And utilize this practice even more OFF of your yoga mat. Try this technique next time you’re behind a slow driver on the highway. Or even better yet, when you’re running late, and everything seems to be going awry. Stop, breathe and FEEL what it means to be alive. Because you are.