When we take a moment to pause and notice our breath, we bring our awareness to the present moment, to our bodies, our existence as it is right now. This presence, this awareness of reality, illuminates the state of our beings, it spotlights the areas of holding, the corners of gripping where ignored emotions are stored, those crannies of trauma from sequestered tears, exiled grief. Whatever our detailed circumstances of life-situations and our reactions to them, we all have places of tightness, holding, gripping, defense mechanisms to protect our selves from perceived harm. We restrict ourselves from presence, from spaciousness, from freedom. To relieve this tension, to untangle these knots, we must allow ourselves, allow our bodies to loosen the grasp, unclench the jaw, soften the hips. Smile.
In our lives as in our yoga asana practice, the body moves in ways to fulfill the demands of our postures and actions, with the mind’s overarching goal to keep us safe. How defensive our mind’s strategy is influenced by the focus of our attention. We all have stories that dictate our reactive behaviors, and we often mindlessly task through our days, without taking pause to observe our breath or be. We restrict ourselves from our true nature. We refrain from or forget to intentionally move our bodies in a manner of active awareness, and all the while, the mind has not forgotten to proactively protect us from perceived harm. Perceived harm is assessed by our experience of stress, anxiety, shame, fear, or other emotionally charged stories that we develop as the narrative of who we are. So, here we have the mind creating tension, constructing walls, stabilizing areas of weakness by thickened reinforcements, in its inexhaustible job to protect us. Our own minds are creating a body of armor when we move through our lives without awareness, when we don’t allow ourselves permission to soften, to relax, to be. The heaviness and impenetrable facade of this protective armor restricts grace to flow, compassion to exude, love to grow.
For example, the next time you take a moment in uttanasana, forward fold (hingeing at the hips), notice. Breathe. Give your lower back permission to soften. Allow your limbs to move as they must in order for the body to make space (perhaps the knees bend, your stance widens). Allow your breath to expand through your vertebrae, to let the head hang toward the earth (perhaps gently shaking it no and yes, feeling the gentle tug of gravity on your hair). Allow your energetic core to move toward your spine as your sternum flows floor-ward toward your feet. Allow the lower ribs to relax away from the hips. What is the energetic core? It is the gentle gathering of energy inward and upward from the center of the pelvis, the area between the sacrum (triangular shaped bone in the lower back) and the lower belly. If you were to envision connecting the dots from the tailbone, to one sitz bone, up to the pubic bone, around to the other sitz bone and back to the tailbone, and from this circular shape a shaft of energy gathered inward and upward, that is the energetic core. That is the seed of your power, the origin of energetic movement, your center of gravity.
In order for any of this mindful connection to the subtle energy body to synthesize, we must use our breath as a bridge to the inner world we all embody, and use this awareness to connect to our prana (subtle energy) that flows unceasingly inward and outward as we breathe. Using our awareness of body with breath during asana postures allows these safety fortifications created from our unmindful behaviors that modern day life often demands of us, to let go, to find a new path, it teaches our minds a new possibility of movement. We connect to our awareness and release with the breath. The inhalation creates space, and the exhalation allows us to soften into what is, into the now.
Allow. Allow your hips to soften, give permission for your shoulders to relax toward your hips, release your tongue from the upper palate and allow the jaw to hinge away. Soften the face. Smile. Allow your body to explore itself. With energetic awareness and breath, we let our minds know that it is safe. Give your being permission to know itself, to use its innate intelligence. Explore within this framework of balance between effort and ease, expansion and contraction. Our bodies are synergistically performing strategies to secure the areas of movement, and when we provide the balance and spinal alignment through breath and mindful awareness, we allow these fortifying protective forces to release. Allow yourself to breathe. Allow yourself space. Allow yourself to let go. Allow yourself to be. Allow.