Making Space to Breathe – a simple embodied breath awareness technique
Place one block vertically under the head… take another block horizontally and place between the shoulder blades. You can rest your legs knees bent and feet flat to the ground, or soles of the feet together and knees open in goddess pose. Feel into the difference between both postures and see what feels right for you today – the goddess pose variation gives a sense of openness and expansiveness, while feet flat to the earth might give us a different sense of groundedness. As you lay down, let your arms rest on the earth – palms facing the sky.
Bring awareness to your breath – each breath rising and falling. With each and every exhalation, feel the weight of your body on the earth. Breathe into the places where you meet the earth. With each breath, feel your body sink a little deeper into the earth. Breathe into any tension or tightness in the body – spend a moment feeling into any tightness without judgment or analysis – feel into the tightness and invite a sense of spaciousness. Each inhalation – a sense of opening – of creating space. Let each breath be effortless. Feel the heels or feet on the earth; feel the buttocks on the ground; let each exhalation lengthen and feel the back of the arms and hands against the earth. Let your awareness rest between the shoulder blades and feel into the sense of connection with the block and any feeling of expansion in the upper back. Bringing your awareness to the front of the chest, with each breath opening to receive and with every exhalation, softening into the body resting on the earth.
We now change our awareness of our capacity to breathe, by inhaling in 3 parts. Inhale through the nose a little and pause; then breathe in some more and pause – rest here; then breathe in as if you breathing all the way to the collar bones and hold. Exhale in one long breath slowly through the mouth. Breathe in and pause; breathe in some more and pause – breathe in all the way into the rib cage and up to the collar bone and hold; exhale all the way out – going to the end of the exhalation. Inhale opening to receive and pause; inhale a little more and pause; inhaling all the way expanding into the moment – pause; exhale softly – one long exhalation. You can continue to do this for about 5 minutes.
Gently remove the blocks and feel every millimetre of your spine against the earth. Feel the weight of your body on the earth. How does your breath feel? Spend a moment here – does your breath feel more expansive? Does there feel like more space to breathe? (Spend some time here – so often we rush off into the ‘doing’ of the next thing, without integrating the experience).
Bring your awareness very lightly to rest at the sternum – the breast bone – the skin covering the breast bone. As you breathe, feel the skin on the breast bone. Feel the rise and fall, the opening and flowing; the lift and the falling away – feel into the sensation of movement and expansion.
Come into child’s pose with your arms extended along the earth in front of you – the hands meeting in prayer pose. Feel the palms lightly touching. Feel the third eye point against the earth. Feel into your upper back – feel the expansion with each and every breath.
Any movement, any asana can become mindful when we invite ourselves to be present. This might sound strange, surely our entire asana practice should be like this, but so often we are on auto-pilot or already thinking of the next asana. Mindfulness is simply turning our attention inwards – paying attention to the sensations of the body without judgement – without reaction or mental analysis. It’s an invitation to listen to the body in a deeper way. And mindfulness is a whole body event – every sensation is an invitation to not only listen to the body, but to listen with the body. For more on Mindfulness in the Body, read our blog on Interoception.