Right now I am in Bristol, England at a workshop with Tony Sanchez learning a series called Ghosh Vinyasa Flow. The series/practice is still new to me and I will continue to study and learn and slowly unveil all that I've learned over the next several months when I am back in my studio in Seattle. The one thread though, the phrase that has passed from Tony's lips through my ears into my brain maybe 100 times already, is "your body is an extension of your breath."
Tony has said to us many, many times this week, "your spirit is your breath" or "your breath is your spirit." If you no longer have breath, your spirit dies. You die. Breath, when I look at it this way, takes on a wholly different meaning. It is not just a physical process; it is all that we are; all that I am.
This six word phrase that Tony has offered again and again, "Your body is an extension of your breath," has been amazingly inspiring for me. I've been practicing yoga since 1994 and my own practice, my own teaching, has evolved in many ways. I know I've written before about other inspirations that have moved me, but this might be the most significant.
Standing in a pose, Balancing Stick, for example, when my shoulders feel heavy and tired and hopeless, my standing leg feels wobbly, my hips uncooperative, I scan my mind for solutions-- "drop your left hip", "relax your shoulders", "bring your weight forward", but this week, hearing Tony say in his calm, melodic voice, "remember, your body is just an extension of your breath" at times when I've felt like I had nowhere else to go in the posture, has brought a new ease to my practice that I am grateful for.
Using my breath is not a new concept for me. I think about it all the time-- to take a deep breath when I feel anxious, to try to slow down my breath when I'm struggling to fall asleep. When I teach, I guide my students to rest using their breath. But now, thinking about my body as an extension of my breath has created an new lightness for me. If my heavy arms, my tight hips, my furrowed brow, are all just extensions of my breath, then I can find ease in these parts by being consciously aware of and engaged with my breath.
I am grateful for all of the teachers in my life-- my parents, my partner, my daughter, my yoga teachers, my friends, the people I meet on the street. All offer me different lessons through the unique experiences I share with them. I hope that this new enlightenment, that my body is an extension of my breath, will bring me a deeper sense of connection and ease, not just with my yoga practice, but with all of these relationships. Thank you Tony for being a most inspiring teacher.