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Day 5 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive - The Breath

It was chilly and very breezy when I set out for my walk this morning, so I left my swimming gear at home and set off in boots and coat. I should have known better, as inevitably once I've walked up the very steep hill which is known locally as Blackwards Hill and then descended back down the Cotswold Way into the shelter of the valley, I always yearn to swim. I had to settle instead, for sitting with my feet in the stream, watching the play of light on the water and the lambs come down to drink. As I walked home to prepare this evening's lesson for my class, I refelected on how utterly cheering I find birdsong - it's a completely spontaneous, involuntary reaction that happens inside - I just find it just uplifts my heart. What a different world it would be if there was only silence.

Abhi continued today with her supportive and calming programme, responding to the demand of the time. She gave an extremely clear exposition of how and where and why the breath moves in the body in the different asanas and how body, mind, breath are inextricably connected. She finished with a looong savasana followed by a question and answer session, by which time I was so relaxed that I forgot to listen or take notes! Speaking of which, I am going to return to my normal mode of blog notes, where I work mainly from memory - this will mean less detailed notes and many more mistakes and omissions- but I enjoy this challenge more, as it's a way of organising the learning in my own head and I tend remember the bits that were important to me. Otherwise I'm finding the blog is less a 'labour of love' and more just a 'labour'! Thankfully we do have the recording of the session emailed the day after, so anyone wanting more accurate notes will at least have that resource.

Day 5 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive

Invocation in swastikasana - Body, breath and mind have to be gathered together for the class. Yoga is Union. The easiest way to bring body and mind together is to adjust the sitting position – place your palms either side of the body and raise your trunk upwards. One part of the brain is involved to raise the spine, another part of the brain has to observe this action, to check whether it has been executed properly and still another part has to be responsible for maintenance of this action. Think of the brain as a multi-national company with many employees working for it – so many brain cells, so many neurons working together as a cohesive unit for you to function. Have that ichhati, that intention, to consciously bring this union between body, mind and breath, all those parts together – the breath supporting the sitting position, feel with each inhalation feel that upward rise of energy. With each inhalation and exhalation pay a kind attention to your sitting posture, so that you hold this pose together. Watch which parts of the body need your inhalation – if the dorsal is dull, inhale to move the dorsal spine in, if there is a thickness at the base of your neck, then inhale in that area to descend that downwards. A few moments of quietness to make our own observations and adjust where needed.

Adho Mukha Virasana bolster support for front body. Arms resting. As you exhale, let your chest embrace your supports. See that there is no hardness in the diaphragm – come slightly up and use your hands to manually spread the diaphragm from centre to the sides and rest down. See if the breathing is more comfortable? Then come up and do the wrong action again so that the effect is clear, just go down and only go for the forward action and notice how the breathing becomes hard. Now again correct – come up and while the chest moves forward, the top of the stomach should not move towards the chest – diaphragm and stomach spread it from the centre to the sides and once again lay the body down. Compare.

When you inhale which part of the body is moving and how? When you exhale which part of the body is moving and how? (Breath was moving in the back body).

When we stand in tadasana the chest is free and it can open for the breath to move freely there. When we go for any forward bend, the chest cannot inflate because it is impeded by the legs, this naturally shifts the breath to the back body.

Repeat AMVirasana and diaphragm adjustment. Here she spoke of a question received from one of the participants who is recovering from Covid. They were finding that when lying in supine positions, the breathing was worse. Abhi explained that the lungs, the chest, the intercostal muscles are so tired, that you should not further load them. Same for a beginning student with asthma – the muscles are so tight that stretching them over a bolster in supine poses will make them tighter still. Whereas in AMVirasana the diaphragm is soft and supported, feel how the chest itself softens and the entire back body is available for your breath. The air sacs in your back and side trunk are free.

Tadasana Here the chest is fully free so observe how the breath comes to this area.

Urdhva Hastasana - Now compare – where was the breath moving in AMVirasana and where do you feel it moving in urdhva hastasana? (I could feel the breath moving in the front top chest) – have a few breaths to fully experience this. Spread the arms sideways and spread the chest along with the arms from the centre to the sides -now where and how is the breath moving? (it was moving from the centre of the chest towards the arms).

Urdhva Hastasana palms facing forwards the location of the breath is again different?