Breathe Consciously: Inner Attention

Lungs are like a Pair of Balloons

Imagine your lungs as a pair of balloons. They fill as you breathe in and empty as you breathe out. As they fill, they rise and float, becoming taller and rounder. They expand in all directions: upward, downward, sideways, forward & back. You can feel the air going backward into your back, forward into your chest, sideways from just below the armpits, and up, elongating your spine. – Erich Schiffman

In addition to closing the eyes, conscious breathing is a fundamental way to draw the attention inward.

  • Breathe deeply and consciously.
  • “Skillful breathing is smooth, free of strain, not erratic. Smooth breathing will smooth out your poses.” (Erich Schiffman)
  • Coordinate every movement with the breath.
  • The postures themselves hold no magical power. If they did, acrobats, gymnasts and all physically adept yogis would be “enlightened” and yet this is not so. Rather, it is conscious breathing that brings “magic” to practices, whether to asana or daily life activities.
  • For much more information, see Breathing Fundamentals.
  • Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow

Know What You Want to Change

We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change. – Sheryl Sandberg

This teaching is found in writings by Stephen Cope and Angela Wilson (both of Kripalu) among others. It’s a practice to help students stay present and engage the Witness, especially while facing intense conditions. It can be a useful practice to introduce during long-hold asana but is also intended to be taken off the mat and used in any situation.

  • The teaching is summarized as BRFWA: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch & Allow.
  • As soon as you are aware that your situation is intense and you may be getting swept away into emotion or feeling overwhelmed, notice the natural rise and fall of the breath. Allow the breath to smooth out.
  • Relax the body. If in an asana, pay particular focus to areas that don’t need to be involved in the actions of the pose, such as the jaw, forehead, brow and belly. Soften and relax.
  • Feel the sensations in the body. Stay with the sensations, noting how they feel moment to moment.
  • Watch or witness your experience. Note the mind’s reactions and let go. Release judgment and stories and return to watching your experience.
  • Allow your experience. Release efforts to manage or control it and simply allow. Surrender. Say yes to it.
  • Enter, Investigate, Accept, Relax

As with BRFWA above, this technique uses particular steps to break down the process of mindfulness to assist students in an ongoing process of returning to presence. The following is from Restorative Yoga with Assists   2013 p 11, by Sue Flamm.

  • Enter: Enter inside of your body.
  • Perceive and investigate: Become perceptive to what is happening inside and investigate.
  • Accept: Accept your current state with compassion and loving kindness.
  • Relax: Relax in your body, mind, emotions, and on any other level of your being.