The Pranayama Ballet

by Amanda Zavodnick | September 15, 2015 3:19 am

Ahh (insert Darth Vadar sound)….the missing piece.   This is when and where I discovered my yoga transformation.   I had always interpreted the breath as a natural and automatic part of life.   We have all heard it said before, “we live and we breathe”, right? In my mind, breathing just happened, when, where and however it wanted.

In any fitness group class or personal training session- you are always coached to breathe and often- at that exact moment – I was doing just the opposite.   NOT breathing.   I guess I decided that the only way to push through and hold on was to literally “hold” the moment and thus my breath.   Perhaps I was operating under the notion that if I could just freeze time – as there was no way I could run another mile, do another sit up or hold Uttkatanasa another second- then I wouldn’t really have to.   In my mind, I was totally working the system.

For as long as I can remember, the cue to breathe was always something I tuned out; it seemed both obvious and a little condescending at times.   It was the same feeling I got when the dentists would say “remember to floss “.      This would always initiate a pattern of responses ranging the gamut from “again with that “- to a rolling of the eyes- to a resignation that I do need to remember this crucial piece.

Upon reflection and a year in the making, I now see that I had misunderstood this cue.   I did not appreciate the purpose of breath within movement and as an awareness of the present moment.   I get it now …Breathe Here, Breathe Now.   It’s a message that I replay in my mind over and over again.    Allowing the breath to continue, finishing it as I arrive at my posture or mile marker offers me the energy I need to focus and thus continue on.   I could not yet recognize that the breath is a pathway to the mind, heart and soul.   I had no clue that my breath was my music, a crucial element to the yoga dance.

Just as with any new discovery, I admit there was a learning curve. I began by embracing the prompt and tuning in to the patterns and sounds of my breath. I welcomed this new partnership. I was patient and gentle. I experimented by taking the lead, guiding my breath and directing our movements to shadow each exhalation. I also was submissive, diligently following the breath as it guided us through transitions and postures. My mat was a dance floor, presenting a smoothly coordinated ballet between my breath and my body.

A yoga studio transforms into a ballroom, with the sound of exhalations as yoga students dance through the practice of pranayama. Here we learn to pair each inhalation with a transition and link our breath with movement. Yoga teaches us about the rhythm that our breath creates, which often sets the pace for our practice.   Yoga teaches us that we can regulate our breath and find energy in the process.   We discover that we can control our own depth and our fullness, in breath and in our lives. Pranayama offers the gift of presence and patience. If we commit to it, we can let each breath within the practice move us closer to self-acceptance.

Truth be told, this was and will continue be an adventure, both in personal practice and in teaching students.   I am only just scratching the surface of breath as my own meditative tool.
As Rolf Gates reminds us, “to realize the beauty of yoga in our lives, we must never forget that the prize is in the process “.

Photo by Richard Seagraves

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