Carrying on from last week’s theme, I stumbled upon a Yoga Living article linking the embodiment of various fauna and flora in nature that inspire the names of various yoga poses and the essence of the energy within each. (Link http://asktheyogateacher.com/wp-content/themes/yogalife/sandbox-layouts/images/mediakit/Animal_Nature.pdf)
This got me thinking about the varying levels and directions of our energy within yoga asana work. Compare rabbit pose (restorative) with crow (strengthening). How is energy flowing within each of these and how do we use the breath to assist that flow and direction of energy input and output?
Additionally, within the same pose, e.g. Virabhadrasana (Warrior) I, we can dynamically move into and out of the pose with the breath or we can move into the pose and work within it for several breaths, aiming to increase the full expression of the pose. The level of energy required can vary significantly between these two choices. With the option of working in the pose (relative stillness) there is added intensity and energy expenditure. So the intensity of the breath should reflect this, with deeper and fuller breath on the hold option to help nourish the cells of the body with fresh air, feeding us the energy we need for the pose. And yet often, when the going gets tough, that quality breath can abandon us if we are not mindful of it.
With other poses, the stiller expression can be the more restorative one, naturally renewing the energy within. Think of a supine twist. When we work dynamically from side to side, with legs kept off the floor as they lower to the side, this can be quite demanding, and the twisting action can inhibit that fuller breath. So we need to be more mindful to keep the breath full. When we take a passive supine twist, and let gravity assist us, we aim to surrender into the pose, and we naturally find the breath becomes quieter and more shallow. Where this is toward the end of an asana practice, it can become a good transition out of conscious breath control, helping to prepare the body for the stillness of Savasana.
So within an asana practice, students can be mindful of how their body is handling the effort of a pose or sequence of poses, whether the pose(s) consumes or replenishes energy, and adjust the breath- and perhaps the intensity of the pose- accordingly.
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.