By Parvati Devi
Guest writer for Wake Up World
Deepening your awareness of your breath is a vital key to unlock the alchemical power of Hatha Yoga. The breath is like a bridge to your inner and outer worlds. When you focus on its flow, your breath will gently, yet powerfully, dissolve any notions of being separate. Awareness of the breath will bring you to rest in a field of profound unity with all that is.
When the body is relaxed and healthy, its various rhythms (cardiovascular, craniosacral, respiratory, etc.) flow in a synchronous dance within the whole. Inherently linked to these body patterns, the breath rises and falls in response to a pulse of energy that moves through your spine.
In a previous article, I explored the presence of a wave of energy that exists in the spine. The awareness of this energy is at the core of my work in Yoga as Energy Medicine (YEM). By understanding it, your yoga poses – and ultimately your life – will effortlessly flower from deep within.
This energy wave exists within everyone and everything. It is the pulse of life itself. (Learn more here…) Yet because we live stressful lives, fueled by habits and choices that perpetuate stress, we hold tension in our body/being. Our breath becomes shallow and tense, and our we lack vitality and ease. With age, injury and stress, the wave and our energy flow lessen. We can become rigid in body, mind and spirit, which can be the root cause of illness and distress.
This simple and safe exercise will deepen your awareness of this amazing wave-like energy that exists in your spine. It will show you how this energy is connected to and informed by your breath, and using Yoga as Energy Medicine, help you live your greatest joy.
EXERCISE: Yoga as Energy Medicine
1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment where you can lie on the floor. Use a towel or yoga mat if you like.
2. Begin with Savasana, a full body relaxation, bringing your breath awareness from the crown of your head through your body and down into your toes. Feel your whole body breathing.
3. Then, when you feel centered, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Your arms are alongside your body, palms open to the ceiling, chin slightly tucked in to keep your neck long and relaxed.
4. Feel your belly rise when you inhale, and descend when you exhale. If you are unsure whether your tummy is moving this way, place your hand on it to check.
5. Inhale, feel your belly rise, and allow your tailbone to tilt slightly towards the floor, creating a slight, but not forced, arch in your lower back.
6. Exhale, allow your belly to descend, letting your tailbone tilt towards the ceiling, so that your lower back gently presses into the floor.
7. As you inhale, draw in life force through your crown, as though you have a whale spout, and down your spine, which is like a tube of breath.
8. As you exhale, sense your tailbone tilt towards the ceiling, as though it floated towards the sky. Feel the energy travel down your legs towards your feet, that are like tubes of breath.
9. As you inhale, the tailbone tilts back to the floor. The inhale is effortless. Your tummy is like a balloon that naturally fills with air.
10.With practice, the tailbone will naturally and effortlessly float up off the ground at the end of the exhale. A wave like flow will roll through your spine so that your lower back will begin to roll up off the floor on the exhale, the tailbone continuing to float towards the sky.
11. With deeper practice, this breath/energy exercise will guide your body effortlessly into bridge pose, without pushing or will. Just like the ocean has varied waves, each breath is unique. Your breath and this wave will guide you to where you need to be.
12. When you have had enough, bring your breathing back to what feels more normal for you. Take a few more long breaths and roll over onto your right side, before you press yourself up into sitting.