How do you view your yoga practice? Does it feel like a workout, a stretch, a refuge, a must do, or a have to? How do you view your mind? Does it feel focused, scattered, quiet, busy, or a carousel ride of daily (or even hourly) ups and downs? Have you ever thought that how one is supported (or not) by the other may boil down to how does your breath feel in the moment?
It is said that the breath affects the mind, and the mind directs the body. That there is no division between these three players affects on our focus, emotional status, and life experience. That the power of the breath outshines the power of the mind through its ability to harness the minds attention with its movement and sound. The mind begins to feel nurtured, calmed, and grounded to the point that the body begins to release its grip and anxieties around how it feels, or what is happening, and feels the minds release of past thoughts or feelings as well as predictions of the future to settle into the groove of presence that is being gently carved by the shaped, intentional breath of a yoga practice, or yogic focus.
What we begin to see with a regular yoga practice is increases in self-regulation or self-soothing tools. That the breath we use on our mats while in a challenging pose, translates quite smoothly to shaping the breath when we encounter a "close-call" accident, or the prickly energy of our partner or friend in relationship. This shaping may include equal body breath, the technique of equalizing the inhales and exhales so they are the same length (4-8 counts for example). Maybe boxed breath where we use the same technique of equalizing the inhales and exhales, but than add a single second or two pause at the bottom of the exhale and the top of the inhale.
Yoga provides many breathing techniques usually referred to as pranayama, to assist us through the ups and downs of a physical practice. It is not something that one may pick up immediately in first class, but build proficiency, control, and ease over time. The four count inhales become six and then seven. The pauses lengthen to four, five, or even eight counts. When the capacity of the lungs is increased and becomes more regulated, the minds ability to assess, respond, and regulate also increases. As the mind goes, so goes the body. Fewer moments that feel like suffering and a need to escape replaced with a more regulated nervous system, and ability to hold firm within the chaos that can be life.
Peeling back the layers of our blockages, restrictions, and fears we begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin. We begin to see ourselves through the self-imposed and societal masks and allow the pure self we have always been start to make regular appearances to the world without fear of judgement or reproach.