Originally written by Zara M on 25 September 2013
I have just come back home from a Yoga4Tango early morning mid-week practice session and I am feeling refreshed, focussed, and ready to embrace the day. It is my first experience of practicing yoga first thing in the morning, mainly because I am not normally a morning person; but would you mind if I said that the experience has quite literally opened my eyes?
The practice sessions are silent, without instruction, and they provide an opportunity to go through the sequences that were taught in the previous class in one fluid motion by simply following the instructor. I wanted to wait until I had attended the practice session before writing up my blog this week so that I would be able to express what it is like to move through each sequence and pose independently, without stopping for instructions, or theory, or having to come out of my meditative ‘zone’.
Also, the focus of our last class was on incorporating the deep breathing technique or Ujjayi breathing throughout our practice in order to build up a relaxing, yet energising inner warmth, to facilitate fluid movement and mental concentration. I figured that to get the most out of this deep breathing it would be best to experience a kind of continuity that perhaps isn’t one hundred per cent possible when actively ‘learning’ in a lesson situation.
I found that the deep breathing felt much more natural during this morning’s silent practice than during the classes. I suppose this is because during the class my attention is divided between keeping up with everyone else, listening to theory and verbal instructions, and learning more about my body as the yoga assistant comes around to re-adjust me. There is a lot more going on, and of course it is all necessary in the class; but my experience of the silent practice session has made me realise the importance of taking away what I learn in the class and practicing the sequences in full by myself, either at home or at a silent practice session.
It was wonderful to practice yoga before the day had started, in a peaceful room with soft music playing. There was still the sound of the city outside; but although I could hear the traffic and external noise, it didn’t penetrate my consciousness enough to affect my focus and the inner calm that was being created by the deep breathing. I think I finally get what our instructor always refers to as being able to clear your mind yet still be aware of where you are, and being mindful of the space and activity around you, not allowing your mind to wander, and always bringing it back to your breathing.
It really did feel like I had entered a realm of my own, and even though I was aware of the fact that I wasn’t the only person in the room going through the sequences, and the city was buzzing away outside the window, I still felt very focussed on myself; on my breathing and on what my body was doing. It felt very natural and I felt completely in control.
I don’t think I’ve quite got the hang of the Ujjayi breath, mine doesn’t sound like the ocean just yet. I can definitely feel the difference though. It feels like I am sucking up air through a hollow tube that runs all the way up my core to my throat, and then pushing the air back down through it again. It is a very nice relaxing feeling and I feel it helps to centre and ground me.
In fact I have proof… This morning in the practice session when we came to the Tree Pose, where I usually wobble all over the place and eventually topple over, I was as sturdy as an actual tree. I couldn’t believe it. And then when we extended the leg back and reached forward, I was able to stretch out so pleasantly, and without feeling like I had to tense up every single muscle in my body and twist at awkward angles to stay in the pose. It was like a miracle had happened, and I was secretly smug.
Perhaps all the deep breathing helped to expand the inside of my body and create balance? In the class the instructor touched on an idea that I thought was very interesting and quite profound. He said that there is a lot of space inside our bodies. I immediately associated this idea with a video I watched recently online where a science teacher presents his class with an empty mayonnaise jar; he fills it to the top with ping pong balls, and asks the class if the jar is full. The class says yes, and then the teacher takes a smaller jar full to the brim of pebbles and empties every single one into the mayonnaise jar of ping pong balls. The class agrees that the mayonnaise jar is now full, but the teacher then produces yet another jar full of sand and empties all of it into the mayonnaise jar of ping pong balls and pebbles. The class is adamant that the jar is now definitely full… and what does the teacher produce next? A can of beer; he empties the entire thing into the jar.
I have honestly never thought about the physical space inside my body before. I always imagine that it is crammed full of organs. It makes sense though, that if you breathe deeply; you expand and create more space inside. Most of us never practice deep breathing and we are therefore none the wiser that there is actually a lot more space in our bodies than we imagine. Deep breathing allows more air into our bodies to circulate, causing more friction and therefore generating heat. When you breathe deeply, you expand your body, and you claim the space around you, and assert the space inside of you.
I’m not sure how, but I think that breathing deeply, continuously for an hour, gave me the strength and stability to hold that Tree Pose and then extend without falling over. I left with my inner glow radiating outward, and I swear to God, four different people said good morning to me with a smile on my way home. This is London we’re talking about, nobody is interested in anyone else before 9:30am, yet I got four hellos from complete strangers. I guess my deep breathing must have generated a lot of positive energy that bounced off me in all directions this morning; either that or I just felt so good that I had a cheesy grin plastered to my face, and walked down the street with a bounce in my step.