As I continue to make my way up the tree of life from my j'ogi perspective, I arrive at #3, how to use breath. You can read the last few blogs to catch up on branches 1 and 2. My faith and yoga path can be viewed like a vector that has a start point as a new-bie that extends up and out and into eternity, learning and branching out as I go. My yoga mat and Jesus disentangle me from the worries, fears and worldly problems that keep me in bondage. It’s a physical knowing which takes me from a place of stagnation to one of challenging personal growth and true freedom. (Galatians 5:1) Freedom on the mat allows me to extend more love off the mat.
At Frogpose we fully integrate mind, body and soul by forming physical postures on a 24x68 inch piece of foam rolled out on the floor- aka a yoga mat. It's called a moving meditation on the word of God through the lens of the Holy Bible, while sprinkling prayer throughout. How do we do this? First, we approach the mat with mindfulness, meaning we exchange our momentary distractions of living in the world for 60 minutes of presence with the Lord. Secondarily and arguably the most important, is we use controlled breathing.
The reason we even have breath is because God made it so. Right in the beginning, after creating man from some dirt, The Bible says that God breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils and he became a living being. With God's intentional breath in us, we are alive and thriving! (Genesis 2:7) It frees us to enjoy any activity under the son.
I've written on the subject quite a bit because it's worth noting and it's another demonstration as to how Christian yoga differs from other physical exercise. In yoga we practice something called controlled or voluntary breathing. The breath is one of the body's functions that can occur with and without our will. When we sleep and go about our day most of us have healthy lung function that fills and empties air without work, involuntarily. Also, when we involve our mind and intention we can control the depth, speed and quality of breaths, voluntarily.
A gentle flow Christian yoga instructor uses verbal breathing cues for each pose for good purpose . Early on in class, once the body has warmed up, we turn up the breath with intention! I call it "Evoking the Breath of the Almighty Who Give us Life!" (Job 33:4) It's a two step process: 1. lips remain closed and 2. there's a slight constriction in the back of the throat. What's created is an oceanic quality to the sound of each inhale and exhale plus it turns up the heat in the body. In a room full of fellow believers utilizing the same collective breath, is an encouragement for healing in the participating bodies. Like a tuning fork, the body resonates with other healthy bodies and together elevate to a higher Christ centered vibration.
Getting comfortable with evoking the breath of the almighty serves each of us differently and at different times. On the mat, holding challenging poses become bearable when a student chooses to focus on a 4 second inhale followed by a 4 second exhale, rather than muscle weakness and trembling. We’ve got a choice in our body during a tough moment: stay with the breath and stand in the fight or release. There is no judgement of self or others from your mat, but rather a knowledge that we are all building strength through breath and encouraging personal break throughs. Off the mat, we know that taking a deep breath before spewing words or taking inappropriate actions as life challenges us, can make the difference between peace and strife. The extra time to fill the mind with oxygenated blood and slowing the breath can lead us to extend grace instead of a middle finger.
As with any yoga practice, your instructor is simply your guide. You are free to decide which breaths you want to follow and which ones you want to skip. Freedom to choose is just as important with your breath practice as is with the poses you want to follow. At the end of a power flow class the body is infused with fresh oxygenated blood giving you a renewed sense of health and more balanced state of mind.
I invite you to inhale and rise up and exhale to release tension. There's freedom with breath.
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