Becoming friends with resistance: Uses of the breath
By Gina Shaw
There are many different words to describe the energy in the body whether it be prana, Qi, Chi or breathe energy. The yogic lifestyle encompasses what are the 8 limbs of yoga, with one of them being pranayama – breathing techniques. This energy is what animates our bodies, what brings life our form and is our life force. The yogic perspective suggests that with careful observation and technique, it is possible to manipulate this subtle energy system in the body in order to bring ease to the body, mind and spirit. Yogi Bhajan has suggested that shallow breathing leads to a shallow life. We must remember to breathe deeply to feel the fullness of the moment.
I had been reflecting on the nourishment of the breath on my way to work when lo and behold, the morning kriya we would be doing aimed to move the pranic body in a more refined and flowing way. With only four asanas (poses), my initial thought was that it would be effortless. However, that was not the case.
In these particular poses, we were to hold each one for 11 minutes. The first couple of moments were manageable, my mind willing to go along with the task at hand. It was when my legs began to shake that the probing thoughts started to arise; telling me it would be so much better if I could just release the pose, how much happier I would be if I didn’t have to endure the pain of the asana. There was a part of me that truly wanted to remain in the pose and so I brought my breath in for assistance.
My breath helped bring peace to the moment. While it was certainly not pleasurable, I was able to sit comfortably with the pain. Each inhale would create a surge of determination, as I directed the exhale towards the particular point of discomfort in my body. The energy of the breath had the beautiful ability to flow in and around those points of tension, making it far easier to be with. Cultivating the breath and its powerful energy has made many aspects of my life far easier to deal with. When resistance arises in things such as physical exercise, sitting in traffic and even the impatience for a webpage to load, breathing into those feelings and emotions has a powerful effect. It’s as if you are wrapping yourself in a hug, loving every thought and sensation no matter what they are.
When we are able to feel nourished by our own limitless supply of energy, we no longer feel the need to find ‘food’ elsewhere when resistance arises in our lives. This may be anything we seek to gain energy from when our minds become depleted of energy, whether we become dissatisfied, bored, agitated or uncomfortable. This may mean we take energy from other people, substances, or experiences. If these outlets of energy do not honor the well being of ourselves or others, we can always find our way back to our breath; the soothing current of its repetitive motion as a home base to come back to.
Reasons to remember the breath:
- It brings you into the Present moment. It takes courage to sit with feelings of discomfort whether they are mental or physical, and choosing to show up in the Present allows light to shine on the moments we struggle with.
- Its nourishment is soothing for the body. I’ve often felt that the breath resembles the rushing tide from the ocean and tapping into that rhythm can sweep through even the roughest emotional blocks, providing a deep sense of pleasure.
- You can find more connection with your body. One way to view the breath and its energy is by visualizing it as sunshine. When you inhale, imagine light coming in from every pore in your body, rather than seeing the breath as air going in and out of the lungs. The exhale then takes the thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us out. This can create a greater sense of awareness and appreciation for the body and recognize that we have the ability to move past negative feelings and emotions.
“You have to learn the value of calmness. You have to calm down the very beat of your pulse. You have to calm down the very breath of life.”
– Yogi Bhajan