Dynamic flow with breath is a mantra in the practice of certain types of yoga. I often hear it as I quiet my mind and focus on breath and movement during practice. It came to me today while reading and the words” let it go” seemed to leap from the page. Let it go – words that I had said often lately to myself and others. Words that encouraged letting go of the old self, of old wounds and even old victories that kept me stuck in the past unable to fully embrace and enjoy the here and now. I am not new to yoga but somehow today it was as if scattered pieces of a puzzle magically assembled into a picture that I fully saw and the magnitude of the whole made me gasp with the weighty revelation.
Breath is crucial to yoga practice, you inhale to create space and you exhale to let go, and go deeper. Breath and movement, a dynamic stillness that is active yet calm. It is no wonder that the yin yang of this practice allows us to experience our whole selves in such remarkable ways.
When the pose is challenging the inhale brings energy preparing you to flow with the exhale. The human tendency is to clinch and tighten in difficult moments but yoga teaches you to breathe into the tightness, to direct your breath where it is needed, release and gently push a little deeper. As you exhale the fear, doubt and self defeating poisons to your soul, you flow a little deeper, and stretch a little farther. If you attempted to hold your breath or inhale to go deeper you would hinder your movement.
Life challenges can cause us to inhale at the wrong moments. We receive a frightening diagnosis, lose a job, hit a speed bump in our business and we hold our breath. Giving into the process seems counterintuitive. The last thing we want in times of challenge or crisis is to go toward what causes us pain. We groan at the discomfort unwilling to believe that we can embrace the discomfort and push past it to release.
Yet, without the free flow of oxygen we hinder exactly what we are trying to gain – forward movement. Our vision becomes truncated and we tighten the field and constrict our muscles rather than breathing and going just a bit farther. We hold in self-limiting thoughts, we rationalize away the possibility of more movement and we hurt even more because as we hold it all in we groan and create more resistance.
When we inhale to gain strength and exhale into the flow of life we become elongated and more flexible. We become better and stronger because we have learned to breathe in and out, to adjust to the pacing, relax our jaw at the right moment and to give ourselves over to dynamic flow. We learn the art of steely stillness, an intensely focused quiet that is both still and active.
I have been told that yoga is referred to as “yoga practice” because you are always progressing and getting better, never arriving at one final victory. Isn’t this true of life as well? The trick is remembering to breathe and go with rather than against the flow. And thankfully, we have many opportunities to progress with practice.
How’s your breath today? Do you hold your breath or let go when faced with challenge?