Unfolding on the Mat
Expanded Content and Thoughtful Guidance
Did you know that you have within you a communication device that will tell you exactly what's going on in your interior life? We don't always know that our mind is struggling to digest something, or our emotions are on high alert, or our body is tensing up for combat.
But our breath does.
It's pretty common these days that people know to stop and take a breath. The phrase "just breathe" is fairly ubiquitous in our culture. And I think this is GREAT. The more of us that stop and breathe the better off we are as a society. It's THAT BIG of a deal!
So we've learned to control the breath in order to create a greater sense of calm to our system. Excellent!
But did you realize the reverse is just as valuable?
Recently I was working with a Yoga Therapy client (via FaceTime) and we were going through her practice and talking about how each piece of it is going for her. Interestingly, the ones that I had intended to be the most important in the sequence were the ones she felt the most resistance to doing. So we asked the question:
How can this be done in a way that feels SUPPORTIVE, rather than like a STRUGGLE?
When we struggle, our breath becomes shorter and shallower. There might be a tightness to it. Sometimes we even hold our breath, as if we're waiting to breathe until the struggle passes.
Well my friends, this is a time of struggle--how's your breathing going?
I think this suspension of "normal" life is a good opportunity to notice how you respond to stressful stimuli, and your breath is your best diagnostic tool. For me, going to the grocery store and seeing everyone in masks was crushing my spirit. I barely breathed while shopping, which I noticed once I got back to my car and took a deep breath. If I had been listening, my breath would have asked me,
"How can this be done in a way that feels supportive, rather than a struggle?"
I made up my mind to change my perspective on the masks and see them as a symbol of the sacrifices everyone is making in order to protect each other and those on the front line. Now my mask feels like I'm SUPPORTING something beautiful, rather than struggling with the images of this pandemic. I can breathe easier :)
In my online classes this week we will work with ways to notice the breath. I will call your attention to when it's a struggle to maintain slow, deep breathing. Once it's hard to breathe in an asana, there are diminishing returns. It's all about that sweet spot of steadiness and ease.
One new thing I'm doing to promote yoga lifestyle tools to support you are what I'm calling Yoga Life Video Shorts. They are posted on my IGTV Channel, as well as in the Jess G Yoga Facebook Group. I recognize not all of you are on social media, yet I want you to be able to access these fun, quick videos so you can incorporate the things that would support YOU today. It seems I'm a glutton for punishment, because I just set up a YouTube channel with these videos for anyone to see. So, as they say, "go like and subscribe!"
May you always notice the quality of your breath, and let it help you move from enduring struggle to finding support.
Jessica lives, has a family, and teaches yoga in Austin, Texas.