Like a wave, the breath is always moving and flowing. Sometimes smoothly and calmly like gentle waves on the beach, other times faster and more uneven like a stormy sea. Mostly we’re not even aware of the movement of the breath, and one of the great benefits of yoga is that it brings you to an awareness of the breath and with awareness comes an ability to bring the breath under your control, rather than the breath controlling you. And a huge advantage of bringing the breath under your control is that it can help to change your emotional state. Usually we use the breath to slow us down and help us relax, but changing the breath can also lift your spirits and energise you.
There are many breathing techniques (pranayama) in yoga, but one of my favourites is simply to lengthen the out-breath. Breathe in to a count of 1 or 2 and breath out to a count of 3 or 4. It slows the breath, calms the mind and relieves stress. A good one to try if you can’t get to sleep.
As with all breathing practices, start slowly and gently and revert to your normal breathing pattern if it becomes uncomfortable or you feel light-headed.
“Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know
as the in-breath grows deep,
the out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm.
Breathing out brings me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.”
From: Present Moment Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it – Unknown.
Yoga gives us the ability to cope with life more easily and not let ourselves be upset so much by what happens to us. We all find ourselves in difficult situations, but we have a choice about how we deal with those situations. We might say ‘They made me so angry’, or ‘They really upset me’. However strange it may seem, we can choose not to become angry or upset. We don’t have to be at the mercy of our mind or emotions, but can learn to ride the waves, and to calm them down. Practicing breathing techniques and relaxing the body helps us to pause, and not to react in habitual ways.
This week in class we’ll be focusing on restorative and calming postures to help us find that inner peace – even if just for a moment or two. You then can learn to string those moments together, until you have a whole long chain of them…………
In classes this week, we’re thinking about what it means to be ‘in balance’ and working with postures, breathing techniques and relaxation that can help to restore some balance in our lives.
When you think about balance, what comes to mind? It might be physical balance, which becomes increasingly important as we get older to avoid falls, but it’s good to feel steady at any age. Or a balanced energy, having enough energy to take you through your day, without having dips or feelings of exhaustion. Maybe you think of emotional balance – we all have those days when hormones or stress gets to us and we experience an emotional roller-coaster and seem to be at the mercy of our mood swings (or someone else’s!). Sometimes our mind goes into overdrive, and we lose our mental balance. Things get out of proportion when our thoughts spiral out of control as we lie awake worrying in the middle of the night.
If any of these sound familiar, yoga can help. Helping to restore the work life balance, and restoring balance in the whole of our lives, so we can cope more calmly and enjoy life more.
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight………
…..Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced”.
From The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran
Water has so many images associated with it. Associated with the tears of our emotions, water can be calm, gently flowing or raging like a stormy ocean. Invigorating, cleansing, refreshing – you probably have some words of your own. Reflecting on some of these associations can enhance our yoga practice. Yoga can help to smooth troubled waters and to balance the ups and downs of our emotions. The moon sequence is particularly good for this.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn