Yoga is a vast ocean of knowledge, skill and practice. I do not presume to know much about it. I have taught for 15 years and I know a little about it. Mostly though, I have developed an approach based on my experiences and observations. At some indistinguishable point in my practice I injured my lower back. I kept trying to work through this but just ended up feeling worse. The blessing in disguise was that it forced me to completely remove ambition from my practice. That one choice opened me up to the experience of myself within the posture in the moment. I began to feel connected to my breathing in such a way that my self became indistinguishable from my breath. This experience forms the background to my teaching.
So it begins with breathing…In most circumstances, throughout most of our lives, breathing is an automatic (autonomic) and reactionary process. For example, when we encounter some strenuous or stressful circumstance our breathing pattern reacts to this and adjusts rate and depth without any conscious act. We take this for granted. In fact, we rely on the inevitability of the reaction to carry us through the experience. In an effort to remain observant of ourselves within each moment, it is helpful to alter the relationship we have with our breathing. Instead of allowing breath to remain automatic and reactionary, bring the movement of breath to the forefront of imagination and cerebral activity. Breathe as a conscious and creative act. The asana and the experience of the asana within the moment then is a result of the breath. The breath is the creative source of the experience. This is a fundamental shift in perception that while subtle, profoundly transforms a practice and our experience of ourselves.
One of the defining characteristics of an asana practice is to remain still within each pose. This grants the student the opportunity for self awareness. However, this stillness is not frozen, rigid, or static. We must breathe, and as the breath ebbs and flows we allow the asana to ebb and flow. This pulsing can be subtle or exaggerated to suit the needs of the moment. An inhale breath increases air pressure in the lung cavity. This increases the fluid pressure within the body cavity which makes it possible to move breath, or its consequence and cousin, pressure, with intention throughout the body. As the expansive wave of pressure emanates from the inhale breath, a sense of space is created within the body. This may be directed with conscious intent. The exhale breath may facilitate the letting go of tension, resistance and fear. As we exhale, we let go of air and its pressure and that allows for a certain condensing into or in through range of motion. The exhale also facilitates the recruitment of strength or the ability to exert effort within the asana. These rhythms to the breath and to the asana allow for the dissipation of unnecessary tension, the accessibility of available strength and the liberating of range of motion. The creative breathing technique allows the asana to evolve in its own time, from within.