“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi
Meghan Currie, yoga goddess, says it best: “Breath is boss.” And she says it a lot because that small phrase is boiling over with hot, steamy truth.
I first came into yoga for the physical qualities and never paid much attention to my breath. I was so focused on keeping up with the fast-paced movements of my vinyasa class that I only remembered my breath each time the teacher said, “Come back to your breath.”
Fast forward three years. After a deeper exploration into my personal yoga practice, I’ve come to cultivate a more intimate relationship with my breath and, in doing so, have learned what a badass friend it is.
A shift occurs when you saturate a moment with breath. Barriers start to dissolve. Discoveries are made.
Feelings—whether yummy or funky-tasting—bubble to the surface instead of being skimmed over with speed.
These feelings teach you things. Beautiful things. About your body, your practice, your reactions on and off the mat to internal or external situations.
When you move slowly, filling the moment all the way up to the top with breath, a blossoming occurs. Clarity comes.
You start to slip into the spaces between your thoughts. You find yourself moving into, rather than through, the sticky parts of life that may not be so comfortable. But comfortable or not, you eventually find yourself savoring both the sticky and sweet moments.
You find yourself staying with them and marinating these moments with breath until another little (or big) barrier within you dissipates.
Soak it up
I like to compare it to food, mostly because I love to eat, but also because I see so many amazing connections between the act of eating and the practice of yoga. When you allow the breath to be the boss, it’s like soaking your grains. When you soak grains, those harder-to-digest starches are broken down, making it easier for your body to assimilate all the nutrients.
When we soak ourselves with breath, those harder-to-digest starches (negative thoughts, physical and mental blocks, projections) are broken down and we can assimilate all the juicy, nourishing nutrients of our practice and daily lives into our being.
Feelings begin to lose their labels; whether “good” or “bad,” they are all seen as valuable information and expressions of our unique experience. We can more easily digest the present moment. Once we digest these nutrients, we can use them for growth. We can collect and cultivate power, strength, inspiration and grace.
Let’s take it to the mat
I have been blessed to take some workshops with the fabulous Meghan Currie, and from these, I have received the benefits of moving super slow and becoming deliberate with each and every movement.
Start in downward facing dog. Connect to your breath.
Take a deep, cleansing inhale and exhale. Allowing the breath to initiate movement (this is key) inhale, lift your heels, round your back as you draw the navel toward the spine and glide forward toward a plank position with the shoulders aligned over the wrists.
Exhale, pressing into the right big toe and drawing your left knee into left armpit. Bring the knee as far up and close as you can to the armpit, pressing your hands into the earth, really rounding your back and drawing navel to spine.
Stay wrapped up in the embrace of your breath. Feel it comb through your body. Is it burning yet?
Ooh la la. Breathe into that. Breathe into whatever sensations are firing in your body. Slow down the moment with breath so you can feel every single moment and taste every single flavor. Soak your body with breath. Feel what you’re feeling, whether sticky or sweet. Don’t run from it.
Flow into it. Float in it. Stay with it. Press, squeeze, hug, breathe. Inhale fully. And then…ahhhh take a vocalizing exhale back into downward facing dog. Moan, sigh, sing, scream.
Express it. Express you. Repeat all of this on the right side. Do it with every movement on your mat. Come to your knees, sit on your heels and close your eyes.
Be the witness to what your inner body is experiencing in this moment. Notice any barriers that may have started to break down. What does it feel like? Hot, sticky, funky, uncomfortable, hard, releasing?
Whatever it is making you feel, be thankful that you are feeling.
When we allow the breath to rule us, to be the conductor of our orchestrated movements, we can sit with what we are feeling right now. We learn about our experience and about the unique pathways and patterns running through us.
We dance with the rhythms of our energy and realize how good that music is. Instead of thinking about how we should feel or look or be, we feel how we feel. In receiving that, we start to dig deeper and reach for the roots of who we are, truly and uninhibited.
We recognize that we are so profoundly beautiful and whole and capable. We taste our flavors—all of them—and realize how important they are in making this big dish called life so damn delicious.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Anne Wu at Flickr