I’m really fascinated with the breath lately. Perhaps that’s why I’m coming across so many unique perspectives and details on the breath itself, as well as how breath relates to yoga.
If you practice yoga, you know the breath is a large component. Many say it’s the most important component.
If you’re alive and reading this, you know the breath is one of the most important components to staying alive.
I recently listened to a mind-blowing interview with Leslie Kaminoff. If you’re interested in hearing the interview in its entirety, you can find it here.
I say mind-blowing because it totally blew away my preconceived ideas about the breath, how the breath works, and how to teach breath awareness in yoga.
In the interview he speaks, not only of the spirituality of the breath (the word Spirit coming from the Latin word Spiritus, which means “breath”), but also of the physics of the breath in relation to our literal universe.
He talks about how the atmosphere of our planet Earth contains air molecules which, thanks to atmospheric pressure, will fill any space available, including our bodies. We often refer to this as empty “space,” but this space is filled with air.
When we think about astronauts on the moon, where there is no atmosphere, we start to develop a deeper appreciation for our precious, life-sustaining atmosphere.
Kaminoff says, “Make the space in your body. The universe will fill it. It always does.”
He’s referring to both the literal physics of the atmospheric pressure filling our lungs with air, as well as the figurative space we can create and the trust that the universe will fill us with what we need.
When we think that we are the ones filling ourselves, that we are the ones in control of our survival, success, and keep reaching or trying to control the universe, this is where Kaminoff says we get into trouble.
Fullness comes from “surrendering to the thing that’s bigger than you.”
In the case of the literal breath, to receive a full and 3-dimensional experience of the breath it is less about controlling the breath and more about creating a space for the breath to fill and bringing our attention to it.
“When you take care of the exhale, the inhale takes care of itself.” The universe will fill us, but only if there’s a space to fill.
Kaminoff points out that as humans we are used to applying action and energy in order to get somewhere or effect a result. In most of our lives we must act in order to receive.
This is not the case with the breath. Instead of working hard at it, we actually have to work less.
As he says, “It’s really hard work not to work so hard.”
The other interesting concept I’ve run across in relation to the breath is the breath as a bridge to deeper layers of our Self. Because the breath can be both conscious (controlled) and unconscious (autonomic), when we bring our awareness and attention to it, it can serve as a virtual bridge to step consciously into what is unconscious.
Perhaps this is why sitting still and concentrating on the breath for even just a few minutes can be so challenging. Mindfulness meditation is a meditation that largely focuses on resting the attention on the breath. Even as other sensations arise, we stay with the breath. Through this process we start to see deeper into our subconscious or unconscious patterns. It’s similar to how you can see deep down into a pool of water if the surface is calm and clear, but not if it’s rough or cloudy.
As you fall asleep tonight or even right now, take a few moments to bring your awareness to your breath. To observe it without controlling it. Consider that the universe is filling you all the time, whether you are conscious of it or not.
This is the generous universe we live in. As long as we make space for it, it will continue to fill us up.