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Our breath an intimate relationship

It’s interesting that many of us don’t consider our breath unless we perhaps have suffered with something like asthma or through improving our cardiovascular fitness. It wasn’t until I attended my first yoga class in the 90’s that I started to become more aware of it outside the fitness arena. Since then I’ve become familiar with my breath and how it is intimately connected my mental and emotional states. The ancients tell us “so the breath, so the mind.” In this blog I hope to inspire you to begin to develop a loving and respectful awareness of it. I’ll share with you some simple ways you can start to build this relationship. This in no way replaces the importance of having a teacher and I highly recommend you connect with one who can guide you on your journey. I also offer consultations in my online studio should you wish to expand on this.

Our breath, like our heartbeat, is the most reliable rhythm in our lives. When we become attuned to this constant rhythm, our breath can gradually teach us to come back to the original silence of the mind.” Donna Farhi

Sacred sounds of the breath

I’ve found it really helpful when teaching the exhalation to use sound. Adding sound makes our exhalation audible. This helps us become aware of the tendency to not to breathe out all the air in our lungs. If we aren’t fully exhaling this also means we aren’t fully inhaling. So learn this technique first.

· Lying on your back you might like a bolster underneath the knees and a firm pillow under your head so your chin is softening towards your chest.

· Place one hand on your upper abdomen just underneath the sternum

· The other hand on your lower abdomen 3 inches under your belly button

· Start to breathe focusing on inhaling gently into your upper hand

· As you exhale start to make a humming sound

· Do this with complete ease, no tension for 5 rounds.

· Start to add an ahhhh sound for the next 5 rounds of breath and start to focus a little more fully on completely emptying all of the sound (which is the air) from the body. Use a gentle inward and upward engagement of the lower abdomen muscles to do this

· Please ensure you relax this contraction before you take your next inhalation

· Rest for a 2 minutes – observe your body and your breath

· If you enjoyed this practice you can add another round of 10 breaths. Once you become confident you can start to notice a pause at the end of your exhale.

· Since the breath is intrinsically connected to the mind, we want it to be relaxed, effortless, no tension. We can say we want the breath to be smooth like honey pouring from a spoon.

Some of the common issues that can inhibit our breathing are tightness in the mid and upper back. Often our posture is a little rounded due to our modern lifestyle of sitting at computers and driving. Another area that can be restricted is our abdomen. As women we are often encouraged to hold our stomachs in causing us to restrict our inhalation and cause core tightness.

Ideally every muscle in our body should be able to relax and contract, a muscle that is healthy can do both. Some gentle movements that move your spine in all directions can be helpful in releasing the knots which may restrict your breathing. Ideally this would be a practice designed in consultation with a qualified teacher, however for the purpose of this article I’m going to offer some generic suggestions. If you have any injuries or health issues, please consult your doctor and a qualified teacher.

In our first practice you were starting to become aware of your unique breathing pattern. Now the invitation is to layer some simple movements into this practice whilst maintaining the awareness and completion of the exhalation. The movement is enveloped by the breathing pattern the breath is your metronome to your movements and will guide you in how long you will move for.

I highly recommend using the arrrh sound, it’s a great way to remind yourself that your breath is leading the way and to make your exhale complete. I’ve found it also gives you permission us to be slow and present moment which are important aspects of the practice.

Movement 1

· Stand or sit on a chair in a relaxed yet upright position

· As you inhale in raise your arms to the side and your fingers towards the sky, pause

· As you exhale lower the arms back alongside your side, pause

· Repeat up to ten times

Movement 2

· Stand or sit on a chair in a relaxed yet upright position

· As you inhale raise your arms to the front – an option is to interlace the hands and turn the palms up to the sky, pause.

· As you exhale release the hands to the front to the starting position, pause.

· Repeat up to ten times

Movement 3

· Lying on your back – take a head support if your chin is away from your chest. Bend your knees with your knees and ankles close to each other.

· As you inhale raise your arms towards the ceiling finishing with them over your head, simultaneously butterfly the knees out wide, soles of feel together.

· As you exhale lower your arms and bring your knees back together.

Since we repeat the movement a number of times, let it be soft and natural, no pressure or force. With the repetition, your body will naturally get more used to it and responsive. Please avoid this one if you have any hip issues.

Repeat up to ten times.

Movement 4

· Lie on your back with your legs hooked over a chair, bed or your couch.

· Use a pillow under the head for comfort and neck support.

· On your inhale raise your left arm over your head, back of hand may come to the floor.

· On your exhale lower it back to the starting position by your side.

· Repeat up to ten times using alternate arms. If you are comfortable you might like to stay in this position for up to five minutes, relaxing.

A simple way to stabilize the mind is to be attentive to the process of breathing - especially breathing out and holding the breath to a good purpose. Mental processes are closely link with the breath. Calming the breathing process, therefore can quiet the mind.” Bernard Bouachaud Reflections on the Yoga Sūtras.

Celebrate this gift of life by becoming aware of your breath. Enjoy incorporating a simple breathing practice into your routine as I’ve found it can have a profound effect on all layers of my being..I hope you enjoy practicing, and familiarising yourself with your breath as a dear friend that is really worth getting to know, and who is with you right until the end. After all breathing if the first and the last thing we do.

If you'd like some further support Rachel offer's 1;1 sessions click on the image

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