I’ve recently started practicing Bikram yoga (try it if you haven’t already – quite something!) and one of the phrases that my teacher often says is ‘Breathe. Align. Deepen.’
Breathe – focus on the breath, this brings everything into this moment, a deep immersion in the body, in the pose, allowing the intelligence of life that we are to respond to this what is, right now. Without that attention and presence, no yoga.
Align – align the body within the pose, get the basics of the pose right, come back to beginner stages and easier versions if the form is lost or if parts of the body are compensating for weaker areas
And only once there is presence to breath and a body moving in alignment with the pose, is it time to Deepen the practice – either through deeper stretches, more advanced versions or through lengthening the duration of the pose.
It is the mantra for the healthy and safe development of our yoga practice, it is also a mantra that we would do well to live by for healthy, safe and sane experience of ourselves and the world beyond the mat.
Let’s look at why this is.
Breathe – the route to presence, reality and therefore sanity
- Allow attention to come into reality, into the body, into the breath, into this moment. Notice suffering, tension, tightness and resistance.
- Feel what there is to be felt in every moment.
- Come into the physical sensations right now – these are the only access point to truth.
- Notice where the mind is, what it is creating, what projections are happening and how these have nothing to do with right now, that without these mental creations there is only this
- A mind engaged with reality is sane and sanity is always the place to begin.
Align – the route to accountability, coherence and therefore stability
Now come the questions:
- Are our words and actions aligned to reality?
- Are our words and actions towards ourself (what we eat and drink, how we move, how we treat ourselves, what we say to ourselves) aligned to the preciousness of life in form? How about our words and actions towards other people, are they aligned to the truth that there is no other?
- Or are they out of sync with what is true? Are we pretending, manipulating, lying, taking offence, defending, resenting, blaming, distancing, trying to control – all in order to protect a self concept that doesn’t even exist?
- Until there is coherence between behaviour and truth, there is no point in doing or expanding, as all words and actions taken from misalignment amplify the problems we are trying to get rid of
- Alignment of behaviour with truth, presence and reality is ultimate accountability. It is the recognition of ourselves as the source and it is the dissolution of any sense of separation between self and other. This is the ultimate stability.
We could spend a lot of time between these two steps: breathe and align. That’s OK. This is our life’s work. This is our only purpose. On the mat, off the mat. In relationships, work, hobbies, money, creating, everything… Over and over again to return to what is true and for our actions and words to adjust accordingly.
Deepen – the expansion that comes automatically from sanity and stability
- Going deeper into life will happen easily and effortlessly though alignment.
- Alignment of words, actions, understanding to truth, to reality will open up possibilities that previously could not even be seen, let alone attempted.
- Presence and congruency of every cell, every thought, every behaviour with truth means that desires already contain their fulfilment, every change wanted is already happening at source
- With each moment of presence and each alignment to that truth, there is a new sense of what we are and a new reality
- Every aspect of this new reality is built on the most robust of foundations: truth, reality, freedom and love