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Breathe, surrender and enhance your prayers, meditation


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We must, if we are to survive, see that our existence is vitally connected with the equally important existence of the other.

I think we would all agree that it takes a lot of trust to surrender, or let go of something.

Now without controlling, judging, or changing it, observe your breath. It's OK, take your time. I'll wait.

When you inhaled in through the nose, over the forehead and down the throat, where did your breath go? Where did it stop? In your throat, upper chest, heart, low ribs, belly? If you need to take a moment and check again go ahead.

When you exhaled did your belly stay soft, or did it engage? Did you let all of your inhale go, or did you hold on to some of it (you now, just in case)?

Let's do an experiment. When you inhale the next time place your hands on your lower ribs. Think of your inhale as a movement in two parts. Inhale in through the nose, over the forehead, down the throat and with your hands notice the side ribs expand. Part two, keeping the belly muscles soft and stretchy continue to inhale fully in the belly, so fully that you can feel your belly in your hips.

Practice this several times. At first the breath will seem blocky, but as you get used to it, it will even out and become seamless between act one and two. Again take your time, I have no problem waiting.

When you inhale this way the diaphragm has the opportunity to stretch to its full capacity. It is one of your inner core muscles, and it is the only muscle that will never fatigue. (If you know of another, besides your child's tongue, let me know!) As it moves dynamically it massages the heart and brings awareness to the space we yoga teachers still have trouble cuing, the pelvic floor.

Continue with your awareness on the inhale, and visualize yourself softening to accept the abundance of the breath. Fill to capacity, fill to beyond capacity. The muscles relax to stretch with the breath. Just two more like that and then come back to me.

Okay, enough with the inhale for now. Remember the exhale. Did you let it all go, or did some of it stick around? Before you run the experiment let me talk a little about it. When we breathe with activation around the diaphragm the inhale draws the diaphragm down and relaxes the pelvic floor, the exhale then pulls the diaphragm up as well as the pelvic floor, another core muscle. The energy that lives in the pelvic floor is all about trust.

To trust that you will get what you need, to believe in the universe and your place in it, is a very big deal. It can all begin with your breath. Authentically exhaling to empty is a statement of trust. You trust that an inhale is waiting for you, that you will receive it. However, to hang on to a little is a just in case statement. Just in case the world forgot about me, if I truly do not have a place in this universe, I will keep a little.

It takes strength to trust enough to let go. Apply this concept to your breath. To exhale is to strengthen, to engage in living. To inhale is to expand, to open and receive. As you exhale imagine the two sits bones drawing towards one another and the muscles of your pelvic floor gently drawing upwards. Think of a hammock. When you rest in one it sags down, comfortable and loose. When you get out of the hammock it lightly springs up. Apply this image to the pelvic floor, a hammock you just got out of as you exhale.  Then the low, wide belly muscle engages until it feels natural to draw the belly button toward the spine, thus facilitating the emptying of breath. Try it a few times.

As you put the exhale and the inhale together view it as an act of surrender and receiving. As a full participation on life. As a way to connect to the world within you as well as the world around you. Imagine if you did this for five minutes before meditation or prayer just how much more connected, authentic, and calm you would feel. Imagine that if you did this mindfully for five minutes a day how many other things you would have enough trust to let go of. And in turn how much room you would be making for what the universe is waiting to offer you.

Tamara Milliken
Tamara Milliken
Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.


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