The Value of Breath Awareness in a Movement-Based Practice
If you want to restore yourself in body. mind, voice, and spirit, you must carve out the time and energy to take care of yourself. This is an integral part of tapas, the practices that heat the body on an energetic level and create positive change (read about tapas here). A key part to a transformational discipline is breath. I include breath awareness in every class I teach, whether it is a class focused on moving, meditation, voice and speech, presentation, or even writing! Breath is at the center of all creation. If you want to restore yourself in body, mind, voice, and spirit, you must attune with your breath. Moving on the rhythm of your breath takes time to develop. Most people tend to either hold their breath while in motion or move more quickly than their natural breath rhythm. If you breathe more quickly than how you move, you prevent a true slowing of the mind, which is the one of the main purposes of a yoga practice. Matching the mind, breath, and movement bring you to the stillness of the spirit within. Let this be on the front of your mind as you explore the breaths and movements in this post.
The yoga poses and practices I share below create a foundation for a seated practice and helps release tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back. Work with loving kindness toward yourself by keeping the range of motion small and building up to larger movements as you feel you are ready. This is a short practice intended for those with little time or energy to do a fuller practice, but crave some time to touch base and find stillness within.
· Breath-Based Practice: Finding Awareness with Breath
Lie down with your knees bent and your feet hip distance from each other. Let the knees fall toward each other in a position called “constructive rest.” You want your body to be relaxed so your mind can soften.
Tune your awareness inward to your breath. Feel it coming in and out through your nose. Simply notice its temperature and where you feel your breath moving your body, particularly your chest, belly, sides, and/or back. Notice this movement without judging it. Just be one with it and enjoy the sensations of breathing.
Now imagine you are smelling something you truly enjoy. Breathe it in with pleasure. Exhale on a sigh with the satisfaction of having smelled this wonderful aroma. Arthur Lessac, originator of Lessac Kinesensics, calls this exchange “pleasure smelling” and “pleasure sighing” to elicit wonderful relaxation in the body and mind while you explore the breath. Continue pleasure smelling and pleasure sighing as you attune with your breath. After 10 cycles, return to natural breathing.
· Movement-Based Practice: Foundational Practices
Come into Easy Pose in which you sit on the edge of a folded blanket with legs crossed or kneeling, then add releases for the shoulders and neck:
Shoulder/Neck Release: Shoulder Rolls, Gentle Neck Practices
1. Sit with your spine long and roll your shoulders up and back on the inhalation.
2. Roll them down on an exhalation. Enjoy 10 shoulder rolls.
3. Bring the right ear toward the right shoulder while keeping the shoulder relaxed down. Breathe several cycles. Inhale, float the crown of the head up and exhale, bring the left ear to left shoulder. Relax and breathe for several cycles.
Repeat these three practices for as long as you are able while keeping soft attention on your breath and body/mind connection.
Explore Semi-Supine Pelvic Tilts with PFCR.
Semi-Supine Pelvic Tilts with PFCR
1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip distance apart on the floor (a semi-supine position). Feel the length of your spine from the back of your head all the way to your tailbone.
2. Inhale, rock the tailbone toward the mat while creating more space between your lower back and the floor. Exhale, contract the pelvic floor while curling the tailbone up toward the knees and bringing the lower back to the mat.
3. Inhale, relax the pelvic floor and breathe into the lower abdomen while pointing the tailbone toward the mat. Exhale, engage the pelvic floor while tilting your pelvis back so your tailbone points to your knees.
Repeat the pelvic tilts with awareness of pelvic floor contraction and release three to five more times.
Note for C-section mothers: If you feel any pulling near or at your incision site, minimize your range of motion in your mid-to-low back as you tilt the pelvis.
· Sit in Staff Pose while focusing on the equal length and strength of the front body to the back body and the side bodies to each other. Breathe here with the Birthday Candle Breath for 15 breaths with pulses, then five exhales on the S consonant.
· Carry your breath awareness over to the practices making up the Core Foundation: PFCR exercises and the Birthday Candle Breath for toning the TA and correcting diastasis recti. (Read about the pelvic floor here and about the value of the Birthday Candle Breath for healing diastasis recti here). Continue working with your Optimal Posture of sitting and standing for healing diastasis recti. You can determine if you have diastasis recti here.
· End your movement practice with five minutes of Rest and Relaxation Pose.
Rest. Breathe easily. Feel the energy you have created and find a way to carry it with you as you go about your day. Be well and be kind to yourself. You can explore these practices in this YouTube video. Please share widely and subscribe to my channel for more videos focused on balancing body, mind, voice, and spirit.