“Last week I lost my breath.” I posted this message on Facebook, almost incredulous that I HAD lost my breath. I’ve been working really hard the past two years to first FIND my breath, then to maintain it and use it for peace, stillness and wellness. How in the world could I have LOST my breath? It was a Thursday, yoga at 430pm day, and when I arrived, our yoga instructor asked, “How is everyone doing today?” My reply, “I’m totally stressed out,” and I waved my hands frantically. “But I know I’ll feel better after yoga.” And, we moved into our “find your center” beginning, one that I’ve done hundreds of times. Within the first minute, I knew I was miles away from my center…my breathing was shallow and rapid, and my mind was littered with frustrating thoughts of my day and from the past week. Mental images of anguish, righteous indignation, and of my attachments to being critical of things that weren’t going the way I thought they should…dominated my mind, and my frantic breathing matched my mentality. Two more minutes passed, and I realized I had lost my breath–my prana–my bridge into the Divine. How terrible it felt; it seemed I didn’t deserve to be a participant in the beauty of the yoga class that day. I stayed the course through the cat/cow poses, through camel, through balance poses (where, of course, I was thoroughly OFF-balance). My frustration may have dissipated a bit, but I was only halfway to finding my breath. My goodness-where did it go?
I headed to yoga again the next morning–to restorative yoga, where breathing, reflecting, stretching, and relaxing are key ingredients to the practice. We opened our sides to breath, we leaned and breathed into reaching toward one foot and then to the other. We twisted–and breathed 3-4 breaths in the twist. We opened our hips into pigeon and arched back to reach one foot–and we stayed there to find effortlessness through our breath. We relaxed into child’s pose over our bolsters, refreshing ourselves with the breath of a child. We threaded the needle to stretch hamstrings, using our breath throughout. we curved our underarms toward the floor in downward facing dog, breathing all the while and extending one leg out, then the other. After savasana, an hour had gone by. My breath had found me again, and I didn’t even know it was happening. In order to move, bend, twist, and reach, I had no choice but to use my prana. The normality of my journey of stillness and peace had returned to me. That familiar familial feeling of being in the right place at the right time for the right life event was right in front of me.
That, my friends, is what my breath gives to me. And I don’t want to lose it again.
I began a consistent yoga practice two years ago this month, and one question that comes a lot is, “What’s your favorite pose?” It really depends on the day and the classes and instructors involves in a particular week. One week, because of consistent practice with 3 different instructors over the past few weeks, I found myself able to do the splits! So, that was my favorite then. I really like Eagle Pose, but haven’t done it in awhile. So, right now? I would have to say Standing Forward Bend. Cindi Lee on the Yoga International web page wrote:
“…yoga is not about reaching the toes! It’s not about superbig stretching or even discovering a secret magic cave. It’s not about attaining a goal that quickly loses its thrill …. It’s about unlocking your ideas about what you want, where you think you can go, and what you will achieve when you get there. This common pose, Uttanasana, which is done in almost every yoga class, will be different every time you do it. Opening to that experience is the biggest stretch of all.”
I immediately saw a need to achieve more in this pose because it’s so central to Sun Salutations, which I’ve grown into and need. One week in yoga class, Susan, the instructor for the class, said, “Imagine your hips as a hinge, and just fall forward a little more.” I did, and placed my hands almost flat on the ground. Kind of like this:
I’m feeling pretty good about moving beyond where I thought I could go…that’s why Standing Forward Fold is my favorite pose…for today!
Lee, C. (2010). “More than a toe touch: Standing forward bend.” Yoga International. Accessed on August 15, 2015 at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/standing-forward-bend/ .
So, I’ve learned most people can’t get to the Lotus pose, or at least not at first. Yet it is the one recommended for meditation practice. Because I have sprained my left ankle about 9 times in my life, even sitting cross-legged is difficult for me, but I crave that well-aligned posture that gives the steadiness necessary for lengthened meditation. I’ve transitioned into using Bound Angle Pose, and it’s working, yet not ideal. Upon recent reading, I’ve discovered the concept of support, using yoga blankets or cushions that elevate the pelvis until it’s parallel to the legs and loosely crossing the shins with the feet being the only part on the floor. You can sit against a wall as well if needed. This will be my next try…anything to stay longer in the heart center will do me much good!
“Like well-placed scaffolding, a good posture holds the body erect and steady. It grounds the base of the spine, and brings the head, neck, and trunk into alignment. Then the mind is freed to turn inward, and body awareness gradually recedes. In the end, a good sitting posture is transparent—a simple seat within which meditation unfolds” (Sovik, 2013).
Sovik, R. (2013). “Finding the perfect meditation pose.” Yoga International. Accessed on August 15, 2015 at: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/find-the-perfect-meditation-pose