Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Breath

About allowing the breath to do the work when we move...

We pay so little attention to the breath, but it's the interface between our inner and outer worlds, and thus it shapes the form we inhabit, the effect of that interface. The inhale demonstrates our reaching out into the world, pulling in life and owning our vitality--it's why it's called "inspiration." The exhale shows our ability to let go and ground, allowing the universe to hold us.

One interesting exercise I remember from my Rolfing training was walking around the room, and first imagining that our insides were completely water, then letting that go, and imagining that instead we were walking around and the environment was completely water. Those of us who preferred inhaling liked the first scenario better; those of us who liked the exhale better felt more comfortable walking around in water.

It's not really relevant here why people prefer one or the other (there's some long explanations about cranial waves in flexion or extension preference, but it could just be karma or astrology). Inhale-people tend to have ribs that are more lifted in the front, and more barrel-like looking at them from the side. Exhale-people have ribs that are more depressed in the front, and flatter looking at them from the side. This is connected with mood as well--inhale people breathe more into the chest and tend to be more upbeat but less grounded, and exhale people are more belly-breathers and tend towards depression or self-absorption.

These are tendencies that will often dominate when we are not conscious of breath. Our fears and our patterns will direct and maintain our posture. When we are conscious of breath and begin to allow it to unfold and lead us, rather than remaining an effect of fear of looking within (inhale people) or looking without (exhale-people), our attention turns that fear into a challenge to stretch beyond, a place to find joy and creativity and expansion.

Here's my reasoning. I am an exhale-person, with depressed ribs that look very flat from the side. I adore exhaling and can breathe out forever, and when I'm not aware of it my tendency will be to sink down into my exhales and barely breathe in at all. However, when I start looking at this pattern and saying hello to my breath, then my inhales become intriguing, and as I explore expanding my ribs the glorious stretch to intercostal muscles rarely used becomes a place of bliss--a place where I haven't been aware that I can grow my universe. It just feels good, it feels like a stretch that I don't get on the exhale. And that goes both literally and figuratively.

So--we let the breath do the work when we move, in yoga or in daily life. And when we start paying attention to the breath and allowing it to lead us, it's like giving control over to the soul rather than the ego and personality--letting spirit guide us rather than the instrument, going beyond our fears and defense mechanisms and transcending the perpetuation of patterns.

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