There is a deep abiding truth and beauty in each breath.
I wholeheartedly believe we have the opportunity to lift the covering of cells and structure to reveal the weight of our own inner presence most poetically through our own breath.
- Place your hands over your heart (go ahead. I’ll wait}.
- Feel the selfless commander of the heart, the rise and fall of your breath. It is our own intimate geography that reminds us of our very visceral participation with who we are.
it’s controlled both by voluntary action as well as the autonomic nervous system. This means you could be asked to take a slower,deeper breath, and you can oblige consciously. Either way, the breath is initiated nervously ( via the nervous system) by a muscle called the diaphragm. It is sometimes likened to a Portabello mushroom cap, an open umbrella, or my favorite, a jellyfish. A nerve leading to your diaphragm fires and stimulates it to contract. This causes the central tendon to pull downward,flattening towards the abdomen. This in turn creates a negative pressure in the thoracic cavity.
Air loves to move towards the area of lowest pressure
So air is funnelled into the lungs via the nose causing the lungs to expand.I used to think that we simply sniffed the air in and pushed the breath out, but the real view is so much more elegant and dare i say more”yo-gic”/ Our own physiology teaches us that we are only just making space for the inspiration to fill us.
“BREATHE DEEPLY, UNTIL SWEET AIR EXTINGUISHES THE BURN OF FEAR IN YOUR LUNGS AND EVERY BREATH IS A BEAUTIFUL REFUSAL TO BECOME ANYTHING LESS THAN INFINITE.”
– D. ANTOINETTE FOY
Hundreds of muscles
Conspire to make room for this inspiration and become responsive to its caress.The dynamics we often talk about in yoga on engagement and surrender are played out with each breath we are blessed to take. With each inhale there is an opening a stretch, a reach, a literal and energetic inspiration. There is a choice to engage with where you are and to follow the long loose tendrils of the breath as they unwing and slide into each nook and cranny.
The exhale is a physical and energetic surrender. It is the yielding of the diaphragm, the belly and the ribs toward your very center. It is a bowing to where you are and to what is. That surrender of whatever is tugging on your “mind’s sleeve” to pull you away from the truth of where and who you are. The end of the exhale, at your most surrendered, is actually where you are the strongest,anatomically, and most primed for action. Physically, the belly and pelvic floor can be at their most contracted. You are at your lightest point.
This is why in the Vinyasa style of practice you often do all of the heavy lifting of hopping or stepping forward at the end of the exhale. This also beautifully hints that the more you can surrender and soften, the stronger and more susceptible you become ready to receive the rush of inspiration just around the corner.
If we are lucky this truth will be whispered to use over 23,000 times today. Our only job is to get quiet enough to listen.