Using Yoga To Breathe
“If there is anything Divine in you, it is your breath.” – Yogi Bhajan
I have loved, truly and deeply, yoga since 1998 when I saw Madonna talk about it with Oprah. Still, it seems, the mind/body/spirit promise of yoga and I had never actually met until early this year when I first stepped into Kundalini Rising Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee. I was finally able to understand the relationship between myself, the terribly human me and the Divine that is both within and far beyond me.
It was an admittedly clumsy beginning, complete with several failed attempts to integrate this practice into my every day life. Finally, the shift has occurred. I am doing yoga daily, counting (one at a time) the sometimes thrilling and alternately terrifying days of my first 40-Day Sadhana. Forty days… that’s the stuff that changes a girl’s life.
Kundalini Yoga, for me, is an experience that touches, awakens, and heals my mind, my body, and my spirit. After 15 years on this path of personal evolution – including traditional therapy, spiritual seeking, a 12-Step recovery, formal education, independent studies, and more – I can honestly say that no other single experience has impacted me so profoundly.
Honestly, I’m still unable to discern, let alone articulate here, how or why this style of yoga has touched me so deeply but every day when I look into the mirror, the woman looking back at me holds the truth. Pounds and inches do not tell the story, not yet at least… rather it is in my eyes that I can affirm that after many, many years, I’ve finally begun the journey back to the truth of who I am.
Already, my muscles (particularly my core muscles) are stronger than they’ve ever been. The improvements in my flexibility and stamina are surprising, even to me. I’m meditating… finally, after all these years. It seems that everything is finally different, or even more importantly, it can be. I believe in myself, in my ability to be that which I aspire to be, and it’s changing my life. Of course, I also know that this is only the beginning.
Last week, I wrote about holding our breath and learning to breathe again. The healing of my breathing patterns has been dramatically advanced by my Kundalini Yoga practice. While the healing of breath through Kundalini Yoga is a journey that will certainly last a lifetime, I want to offer to a few puzzle pieces that have been particularly powerful for me.
Conscious Breathing – Just be still for a moment and notice your breath. What’s happening within your body? Are your inhalations and exhalations balanced? Are you using your nose or mouth to breathe? Do your shoulders move? Your chest? Your belly? Do you hold your breath? Are you breathing fast or slow?
And from Shakti Parwha Kaud Khalsa’s, “Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power: A Simple Guide to the Yoga of Awareness,” I offer the following treasures:.
Long Deep Breathing – You can use Long Deep Breathing as a guided mediation for many aspects of self-healing. Chose your own list of qualities to meditate on and consciously receive and accept whatever concept you choose with each inhalation. Then release, or let go of that opposite quality with each exhalation. For example:
It seems so simple, but believe me, it works! You already have that infinite creative flow of eternal power within you. This is one way to use it. Keep remembering that breath is life, and therefore breath can rejuvenate and regenerate.
Linking The Breath With Mantra - One of the simplest but nevertheless most powerful ways to meditate on the breath is to think the sound “SAT” with every inhalation and think the sounds “NAM” with every exhalation. Hear the syllables in your mind. ( Suuuuuuuuut… rhymes with “but,” Naaaaaaaam, rhymes with “calm.”) Mentally create these sounds. Take your time. Take 10 long, deep full breaths, meditating on each breath with the infinite sound of SAT NAM . (SAT NAM instantly attunes us to our highest Self.
Lastly, I offer you the One-Minute Breath. This was really hard for me at first but I can actually do it now. It is very calming and centering. I highly recommend it. Breathe in for 20 seconds, hold the breath in for 20 seconds, and then breathe out for 20 seconds. I can’t imagine that breathing at this slowed down pace is anyone’s nature so be gentle with yourself while your body is getting used to it. It’s all about slooooowing down, the breath first and the life follows.
And then there’s the beast, the game-changer, the most healing and transformative breath of all – Breath of Fire! Next time, my friends… Until then, try these techniques and let me know what you think. Also, feel free to leave your ideas, suggestions, and questions in the comment below or contact me directly through my website (below).
Image Credit: madpai via Flickr