A beautiful way to bring yourself home to your own beautiful presence is through centering awareness in the breath.
This is the very first and most important practice of all breath work. Before beginning to consciously control the breath, it is important to grow the awareness of how the breath is moving, or not, in this moment. We practice without criticizing, without judging, and without creating stories about the path the breath is currently on. When critical voices begin yammering inside, honor them as a part of you, and then, with kindness, come back to the breath. As judgments arise, name them simply, and come back to the breath. As thoughts flow through the mind, allowing them to flow, rather than holding on and developing them, enables awareness to gently sit in the breath.
If you would like to be guided in a Breath Awareness Practice, here is a short video.
Practicing yoga postures without breath awareness sustains physical benefits such as increased flexibility, deepening strength, improved balance.
Seeds at Watson Lake, Prescott AZ (barefoot photos)
When breath becomes an integral component of asana, the mind focuses and can achieve the single-pointed awareness so often mentioned by the ancient sages.
Breath awareness is key for deepening yoga practice because it links the mind-body into a unified being. As it anchors the mind to the physical movement (or non-movement), it awakens the body’s intelligence, as B.K.S. Iyengar says.
Mindful awareness then turns the practice from a purely physical level into meditation for the practitioner.
Breath awareness is also key to opening into more mindful awareness of life itself. When my thoughts or emotions start to spin out in their all too often merry escapades, I find that checking in on my breath can slow the wild energy down and I can more easily glimpse the reality I am experiencing sans whatever emotional or mental machinations surrounding said reality.
A simple practice for increasing your conscious awareness of your personal breath patterns is to simply notice the breath and then give it a short name, such as rushing breath, or lazy breath, or not-breathing (yes, breath holding is more common than you might think), or hyper-ventilating.
Checking in with the breath, once per day, will increase your mindful awareness of the moment. As a bonus, you may find, as I have, that breathing FEELS good. Through continued practice, I have found a beautiful relationship developing with my breath. It’s a marriage that gives me much pleasure.
What happens when you first open your eyes in the morning?
What are your first thoughts, and feelings?
How do you transition from sleep and dreaming to “reality” ?
There are a couple of different patterns of waking I have noticed:
Acting as if on autopilot, I head to the bathroom
Opening my eyes to grumbling-or curse- due to some noise or t’other that has waken me “before my time” –or the sunlight shining upon me little shut eyes
Slapping the alarm and jumping head first into the day’s ToDo list
Rolling over, keeping my eyes closed, trying to relax back into whatever delicious dream I’d been having–or I begin immediately analyzing the dream I’d just had
Acting as if on autopilot, asking my sweet partner if there was any coffee made
Savoring the between sleep and wakefulness stage, writing in my mind–listening to my voices
Upon realizing physical stiffness and perhaps soreness, I begin stretching in bed
The few moments when coming into conscious wakefulness are precious and there are several practices that can maximize our wakefulness, enabling us to establish a more mindful existence.
Practice half-smiling even before you open your eyes.
Allow the light and any noise you hear to remind you of your true nature.
Observing which nostril is dominant. Observing nostril dominance can remind you of your state of awareness at any time of the day or night.
Simply BE. Be aware of your awareness. Don’t think about it; feel it; be awareness pure and simple. Yoga nidra teaches us that this awareness is always available, always aware–even during sleep–if we are consciously awake during sleep.
Living in a state of awareness is a practice. It’s a key to walking through the door of numbness into conscious awareness. Beginning our day “awakened” would benefit the rest of our life. The voices, creative and otherwise will still be there, but we’ll see them existing in this pure awareness of all beings. We’ll begin to know who “we” are.