Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Sigh of Relief

Have you ever encountered a challenge in your life, but then felt relieved after you successfully overcame the challenge? What is one of the first things you did? Perhaps experience a big sigh of relief, right?

What happens within your body when you sigh? Typically we have held some sort of tension in the body then when you breathe out, usually through the mouth, that tension is released. You may even make a sound: an audible sign indicating that the tension is no longer in your body. One may feel a sense of lightness, a weight completed lifted.

In our yoga practice, in order to move deeper into a pose, it may be necessary to experience that audible sigh of relief. Let's try this breathing sensation with the following pose:

Standing Forward Fold

Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Begin your Ujjayi Breathing. Remember, this flow of breath is typically through the nose; your mouth is closed. You will feel the dynamic breath move in and out of nostrils, but the effort of the breath comes from the muscles in the back of your throat. Once you feel a greater connection to the breath, begin your Sun Salutation. Complete a Series A (3 Salutations) to bring warmth and opening to the body.

Series A
Mountain Pose
Forward Fold
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Forward Fold
Mountain Pose

After you have completed your warm up, return to the Forward Fold Posture. It is perfectly fine to be in this pose with bent knees. (There is no rule that says you have to be in a Forward Fold with straight legs!) In order to experience more release and straighter legs (if that is your intention) then you can use your dynamic breath – and a sigh of relief – to help you achieve that goal.

While in your Forward Fold, hold onto each elbow or the backs of your legs. This will create more weight in the body allowing you to go deeper into the pose. Pay attention to your breathing: breathe in through your nose, then, with a sigh, breathe out through your mouth. See if your body went deeper into the pose.

You can continue to move deeper by doing the following: allow your hips to lift a little higher toward the ceiling while at the same time feel the backs of your knees move toward the back of the room. These do not have to be big movements. Move gently and carefully into the depth of your posture. Don’t forget to sigh.

Physically, over time, this will create more length and flexibility in your hamstrings. Emotionally and mentally, think of this exercise as a way to experience release of tension; as a way to create more space in your heart and mind so you can move forward on your life journey.


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