The Creative Breath
As students of an asana yoga practice, we work to improve our understanding of ourselves by experiencing ourselves within each moment. This is achieved by exposing ourselves to certain variations of form or expression, aka asana, and then observing the reactions, sensations, and fluctuations that occur within ourselves. To remain observant is difficult, to say the least. We can facilitate this process with the creative breath. In most circumstances, throughout most of our lives, breathing is an automatic (autonomic) and reactionary process. For example, when we encounter some strenuous or stressful circumstance our breathing pattern reacts to this and adjusts rate and depth without any conscious act. We take this for granted. In fact, we rely on the inevitability of the reaction to carry us through the experience. In an effort to remain observant of ourselves within each moment, it is helpful to alter the relationship we have with our breathing. Instead of allowing breath to remain automatic and reactionary, bring the movement of breath to the forefront of imagination and cerebral activity. Breathe as a conscious and creative act. The asana and the experience of the asana within the moment then is a result of the breath. The breath is the creative source of the experience. This is a fundamental shift in perception that while subtle, profoundly transforms a practice and our experience of ourselves.
One of the defining characteristics of an asana practice is to remain still within each pose. This grants the student the opportunity for self awareness. However, this stillness is not frozen, rigid, or static. We must breathe, and as the breath ebbs and flows we allow the asana to ebb and flow. This pulsing can be subtle or exaggerated to suit the needs of the moment. An inhale breath increases air pressure in the lung cavity. This increases the fluid pressure within the body cavity which makes it possible to move breath, or its consequence and cousin, pressure, with intention throughout the body. As the expansive wave of pressure emanates from the inhale breath, a sense of space is created within the body. This may be directed with conscious intent. The exhale breath may facilitate the letting go of tension, resistance and fear. As we exhale, we let go of air and its pressure and that allows for a certain condensing into or in through range of motion. The exhale also facilitates the recruitment of strength or the ability to exert effort within the asana. These rhythms to the breath and to the asana allow for the dissipation of unnecessary tension, the accessibility of available strength and the liberating of range of motion. The creative breath technique allows the asana to evolve in its own time, from within. As this occurs the struggle and conflict within ourselves, or with our circumstance and environment, is removed and all that is left is the experience to be witnessed and appreciated.