Inspired by my Dorset yoga workshop with Joey Miles last week, I wanted to bring into classes this week a refocus on the breath. How do we know if we have opened ourselves up fully to receive the breath? As we sit or lay at the start our practice, hands lightly placed at the belly can assist. Ensure clothing is not restricting this area. First feel and notice any muscle contractions, any gripping in this area- exaggerate it so you begin to learn where you natural hold on. Then cultivate softness at the belly as you relax the muscles on the inhale, to create space for the breath to move into.
If you think you have relaxed the area fully, challenge this assumption. On the next exhale, gently contract the area and then as the inhale begins, try to relax the area even more. Stay with the breath as you feel into softness with the inhale. Then move awareness to the sides, is there softness here too? Stay attentive as you explore how to let go to find space. Then let awareness glide around to the side body, the back, higher up into the abdomen and then up into the chest. Keep scanning your awareness to find additional space for the breath to open into.
As we work with the breath in our asana practice, we have competing demands on our attention. So find time to draw awareness back to the breath. Whatever pose you find yourself in, feel where there is space to take the breath. In twists, one lung will feel more constricted, so move the breath more into the other side and take it higher up into the chest. Be aware of how you can play with the breath: explore where you can take it and be curious. Take your breath to new spaces and feel how it changes your practice.
Ruth teaches yoga in Cheltenham UK, weaving yoga philosophy into the asana practice to help students connect yoga on the mat to their lives off the mat.