The breath can lead the body toward wellness and the mind toward calmness.
The theme of my class today was inspired by this quote. We can try and understand this quote intellectually and know that it is probably true but it is only through our practice that we come to know fully the absolute truth and wisdom of this statement. When we practice yoga asana (postures) without a focus on the breath it is not true yoga. Focussing on the breath anchors us in the present moment but also has deep physiological benefits for not only the Nervous System but all systems of the body as well as the mind. We must start our practice with the breath and try to experience our movement as an extension of the breath. When we begin yoga we might force ourselves into an asana but stress and discomfort will disturb out breathing which creates imbalances in both body and mind.
So too when we are deeply connected to our breath throughout our day we can maintain a sense of serenity regardless of what is going on around us (or we can make a choice to get back to that place if we're knocked off centre). The ability to stay calm comes from within us and is intricately linked to our breath. I think we know this intuitively but we forget - our breathing quickens and becomes more shallow in stressful or anxiety producing situations. When we tune into the body through yoga practice we notice this and we know what to do to counteract it, to give us space to respond rather than react. We lengthen the breath, we deepen the breath and physiologically we trigger a calming response.
This knowledge then guides us to begin to understand that we have a choice. As Wayne Dyer notes 'Blaming others for our lack of calmness will never bring us to the state of being that we'd like to attain.' How often do we blame others for our emotional reaction?
Dr Dyer also says 'The solution to a life of unrest is choosing stillness.'
Personally I have lived 20 years of unrest until I chose stillness as a daily practice. Our asana practice, with a focus on the breath, prepares our body and nervous system for stillness, to be able to connect to that deep place of calm which is there, often unseen - like the eye of a storm - forgotten in the busy-ness, veiled by fluctuating thought patterns and over-activity. Yoga begins to lift that veil.
So let your breath lead you to calmness, to true wellness, as you practice on and off the mat.