How We Do Matters More Than What We Do
With Yoga, as with all of Life, what is important is not what we do, but rather how we do it.
Maintaining attention on how we practice Yoga fosters the part of us that is willing to move into the state of Being as a legitimate and worthwhile experience. When repeated on a regular or daily basis, we shift the balance away from filling our lives with hours and hours of Doing, to devoting more time–quality time–to quiet, fulfilling and guilt-free non-Doing–also known as just Being.
In the state of Being, we anchor ourselves in the present moment. The mind grows quiet. Then authentic Yoga emerges. We learn by experience that being present in the moment is the way to live our lives to the fullest. Our bodies, minds and spirits need these “Stop-Be still-Do nothing” time outs at regular intervals to recharge our batteries, to reconnect with our inner experience of a posture, a breathing practice, a meditation. Otherwise we find that months, years or decades have gone by filled with all kinds of “doings,” while we ran on auto pilot, too late discovering that we have missed out on simply enjoying life day to day. Yoga can happen on a yoga mat. But that’s just the beginning. The main event is Yoga happening all day long. We can take Yoga with us everywhere.
Why Breath Awareness Is a Must
Without breath awareness, there Is no Yoga. In practicing asanas without consciously integrating breath into the movement and into the pauses, we lose that vital bridge that links the mind and body. When we practice with a mindset of trying to make our postures resemble a still photographic image in a yoga book or magazine or a movement in a video, rigidly controlling the breath to maintain our image of “the perfect posture or movement,” we lose the living dynamics of the action and cheat ourselves of its deeper benefits and effects.
Too often in our mental laziness, we allow the mind to run amuck, distracting us even as we practice the ancient art of Yoga. Instead of harnessing and disciplining the mind to remain focused on the moment to moment experience of our asanas and our breathing, we allow the mind to make us undisciplined slaves. By training ourselves to pay attention to the breath as we experience breathing, breath by breath within the asanas, by coming back to it over and over again, we can make each asana a living, organic expression that becomes both a transmitter and receiver of vital information. We can inform—we can bring into form—a new and transformational experience of Yoga. Our bodies, our emotions, and our spiritual experience change. Our minds become peaceful and centered. And those who know us will see notice the change because these effects, revealed from the inside out, constitute a kind of change that cannot remain hidden either from ourselves or from others.
Developing Breath Awareness Is a Challenge: Here’s How to Begin
It can be helpful in learning about breath awareness to appreciate the fact that as we each begin our own journey in this life, we start with cellular respiration—the original movement we each experience as an embodied soul, although we have no conscious memory of our cells literally “breathing.” In reconnecting with the consciousness of the cells and the original movements of the physical body—when all we were was a group of undifferentiated cells—we tap into the groundless matrix of our being. Through awakening to the ground state of the cells, we can access a well of information and wisdom beyond the conscious mind.
[pullquote]“The cellular level of awareness is the field from which all other intentions form.” – Body Mind Centering Teacher, Lynn Uretsky[/pullquote]Exploring this cellular consciousness—the mind of the cells–can be taken into various asanas for the purpose of deepening our experience. Even more productively, it can also be taken into sitting meditation practice. By linking this new level of experiencing cellular respiration with the workings of external respiration—the work of the lungs and the states of mind our external respiration elicits—we gain mastery over the vagaries of the mind and find ourselves spending longer and longer intervals engaged in the “settling of the mind into silence,” the gateway to deep meditation practice, flowering health, and well-being.
Finding the Joy in Simply Breathing
We can find joy in exploring how external respiration supports each asana, how it facilitates the flow of energy through the body, and how it can be used as an internal gauge to assess when a posture is complete, when the body signals us to return to physical stillness, temporarily, once again.
Finding Wisdom in the “Twilight” Between Two Breaths
Rarely in our Western culture are we encouraged to simply “be” or to enter “fallow” periods of stillness. There are some who say that all that has ever been known and all there ever will be to know exists in the twilight state between two thoughts—the resting place between breaths. It is possible through awakening to the ground state of the cells that we can tap into a well of information and wisdom beyond the conscious mind.