more than one way



Etoile Chaville, Jennifer Mann and María Ferrara prepare a joint session for the Yoga Sky open-doors day. They teach classes in French, English and Spanish and the theme of the session at hand is coming together, bridging differences with the common language of yoga. Idea to start the session: standing, one hand on the chest, another below the ribs, become aware of the breath and find an oscillation, backwards and forwards. One movement as you inhale, the other as you exhale. Then find a synchronised swaying with a partner in front of you.

At this point, the image freezes and we hear a voice-over,
“What is more natural, inhaling as one goes forwards or as one goes backwards?”
Then we hear the sound of breathing as the image dissolves into a “white-out”.

If you’d like to find out what these three get up to when they’re together, you’ll have to come to the next Yoga Sky open-doors, as now I’m going to concentrate on the question!

My first impression as I tried was that inhaling took me forwards – the chest and the abdomen expand and also inhaling felt connected to getting going, to activity, to contact – and that exhaling took me backwards – the chest and abdomen retreat backwards and exhaling felt connected to returning inside, to gathering myself in as I let go of what comes from the outside.

I began and, to my surprise, I soon found myself doing the exact opposite: exhaling as I went forwards and inhaling as I went backwards. I became curious.

Several things were producing this other possibility. As I engage in conscious breathing the breathing slows down, and I find that the exhalation naturally extends further than the inhalation. In oscillation, going forward has a longer range, I can keep my balance better going onto the ball of my foot and toes than going onto the heel. So the length of the two gestures match better when I exhale forwards.

But apart from this aspect, of a logical or physical nature, I found more subtle correspondences. Energetically, the feeling of letting go that comes with exhalation seemed more natural going forwards, there is less fear of losing balance and it is easy to curl or take a step and avoid crashing onto the floor. The movement backwards required more alertness, that is better supported by inhalation.

Getting even subtler, I usually associate inhalation with external contact (letting the outside come in) and exhalation with internal contact.(emptying out of what has come from the outside). In this experience, carried out with a partner in front of me, I found myself doing the opposite. When I inhaled I was moving away from my partner and when I exhaled I was moving towards them. However, it had its own logic too: the direction of the air is towards me, the focus is on me, I withdraw. The direction of exhalation is going away from me, my focus can be on the other person, I go towards contact with her.

In spite of all this, I have still found the opposite sensations to be true when I’m lying down and now I have become curious about questioning the breathing patterns I am used to when coming in and out of asanas, about exploring this whole universe of letting go vs. alertness, of internal vs. external contact through the breath. What is what? How can I have some of each in the other to orient myself towards yoga?

One of the ideas that we were interested in transmitting by three of us leading a session was the fact that there are many ways of doing things, not only one. And all of a sudden, a door opened in front of me to explore this issue in my own practice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s