Week 277: The Life Cycle of Breath
It is hard to believe that I am half way through the required weekend sessions!
In workshop #8, we touched on the life cycle of the breath, the importance for alignment and the Bhagavad Gita. Judi, a senior Iyengar teacher, provided her insights and guidance to all of the attendees. I was fortunate to have a chance to speak with her privately about Iyengar training. She told me that it takes four years to complete the certification and the training is very intensive.
At this point, I feel like I am still finding my way. It was nice that Judi shared some insights with me.
Now into the meat and potatoes…
Initially, we reflected on words of Patangali whereby Sutra 2.49 recommends that pranayama be practiced ‘after asanas’. The Yoga Sutras also note the three movements of breath in Sutra 2.51 as inhalation, exhalation and retention. We had a lengthy discussion about the prolonged inhalation and exhalation which is matched with interruption or suspension when we retain breath.
Judi provided an interesting perspective on the life cycle of breath. Starting with inhalation, this portion of breath can be seen as birth and new beginning. The retention before exhalation can be seen as a time for growth. The following exhalation is linked to decomposition with the final retention before the next inhalation as the non-physical.
I’d like to think that inhalation expands us as in birth. The following retention is when we are full of breath and we continue to grow. The exhalation is the obvious deflation and emptying or as described above decomposition. With the final retention as non-physical as there is no longer any breath present and the lungs are deflated.
A super intriguing way to look at the breath. It is almost like with every breath we experience both birth and death. Kind of a unique way to look at the breath and the nature of life.
The second part of the workshop focused on alignment. The awareness of alignment is a large part of the Iyengar practice. Judi quoted Iyengar as saying that ‘dis-ease is the lack of concentration’ and that ‘whatever integrates, will heal’. When practicing asanas, it is key to be aware of alignment to gain the most benefits. In other words, practice quality movements for the greatest rewards.
Major pieces to remember as a yoga teacher are to ground in the foundation for stability and mobility and elongate to make space. Further, looking at the shape of your students can be very insightful. How do they keep the shape? How can you help them find the best shape for his/her own body? It may require amendments or additions that help students work through the poses.
The final aspect of the workshop was a dedicated to the Bhagavad Gita. We were required to read the introduction to the Barbara Stoler Miller book, The Bhagavad Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War prior to attending the workshop. This is my first experience with the Bhagavad Gita and I’m not so sure about it.
Judi presented the Bhagavad Gita in a new light, stating that it was a ‘love poem’. Not so sure of this book, I sat and listened intently about why a book about war is actually about love.
Some interesting elements about the book include that it was thought to be written over centuries as it is the sixth book of the great war epic the Mahabharata, that there is an assignment of a spiritual quality to a human being (i.e., Krishna), and that repetition is used throughout the book that builds on itself. Judi suggested that Chapters 2, 4, 10, 11, and 12 are the most crucial in the 18 chapter book.
The Bhagavad Gita challenges the state of mind but asking the question ‘do you have moral space to receive an alternative teaching?’. Furthermore, it challenges us to look beyond the basic story of war and ask ourselves:
Do we take our state of mind for granted?
Can you go beyond your state of mind?
Can you hear Krishna’s message?
I suppose I have a lot more reading to do to understand the Bhagavad Gita.
Overall, there were many takeaways from this weekend’s workshop.
As I continue to say, I have so much to learn,
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Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.