Saturday, July 30, 2011

Expire and Inspire!

"We too should make ourselves empty, that the great soul of the universe may fill us with its breath."  
~Laurence Binyon

I took Anne Miller's All Levels yoga class Thursday morning.  It was a beautiful practice in which she spoke about gratitude and how the elegant sound we give to our breath when we practice ujjayi pranayama is not only a gift we give to our fellow yogis in the room - the gift of our presence - but also a sweet reminder of the life we have been given.

Along with the gift of the sound of our breath, the breath itself is an amazing offering both to us and to the world around us. It is the act of inspiring and expiring, both the sparking of life within and a profound letting go, all in one cycle of breath.  

Much like leaves on a tree move with the wind, in yoga it is said that the mind moves with the breath. When the breath is controlled and calmed there is a soothing effect on the mind. Many people think of pranayama as just controlling the breath but it is much, much moreAs we deepen our pranayama practice we begin to use retention (kumbhaka) at both the top of our inhales and the bottom of our exhales to expand our awareness of the divine within us. 

B.K.S. Iyengar says that "when you hold your breath, you hold your soul.  By retaining the full in-breath, you hold the divine infinite within yourself."  He says that at the moment you retain your breath you have reached the full potential of your individuality, but "it is a divine individuality and not the small, selfish creature you normally take yourself for." The idea is that when you inhale you are inspiring the divine to expand and grow within and when you exhale you generously surrender your divine self to the world. 

To breathe in is an inspiration, a receiving that engulfs the whole body.  When we breathe in we allow the divine infinite to expand into the space that we're making.  To hold the breath in is to experience the fullness and richness of this divinity. The exhalation surrenders everything that we think we are to the source of life - the giver of life.  The body moves in towards the core of being, like a baby nestling against its mother, secure and trusting. What dies is the "I", "me", "mine" which clings so passionately to its own identity. When we hold the breath out after exhalation, we experience expiration - a small death or letting go. 

Today, simply practice following the length of each inhale as it leads up into the spaciousness of your divine, true self at the top of the breath. Rest in its abundance for a few moments before sliding down the length of the exhale into the still, quiet space that resides at the bottom of the breath. Rest in the emptiness without feeling the need to add anything or wanting anything to be different. Feel the in-breath inspire you to live fully and to appreciate the amazing gift of taking the divine into yourself.  Allow the out-breath to be an expiration, a small death or a releasing of the divine within us back out into the world.

Until next time...

"Inhale, and God approaches you.  Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.  Exhale, and you approach God.  Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God."  ~Krishnamacharya

Posture Flow
by Danna Faulds

This is a sacrament,
a prayer of breath, a
symphony of soul
and motion. This is
yoga, emerging from
the inside, out-all
here in this singular
meditation of spirit.
Trust that the body
knows what it needs
if you dare to follow
where it leads.

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