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Breath as Balance

Mary Singleton

It's a balance between will and surrender.

It's a balance between will and surrender. I read a cue from the Integral Yoga School that described the exhale as the muscular effort of will. I love that! It gives me somewhere to direct my emotion, my physical tension, my mental chatter. If for just that exhale, I can focus on releasing, I've created space for the possibility of receiving. What am I receiving? Simply, I'm receiving the inhale. If I press through my effort on the exhale, I can relax and soften into the inhale. We soften so much as to surrender. In that softening, we are able to receive more. We receive more breath. So where the exhale is the muscular effort of will, the inhale is the softening into surrender.


Yoga sums this up with the words isvara pranidhana. What can we actually control that we spend our energy trying to control? Isvara pranidhana is the practice of letting go so we can receive. When I let go of trying to control the outcome of things, I give myself a little more space to breathe and a little more time to decide how to react. But the act of letting go, surrendering the outcome to the bigger picture, seems too daunting at times.


Pranayama, the practice of adaptive breathing techniques, is a tool for just these moments. What's great about sitting still and focusing is learning about your unique breathing patterns, working with the stream of inner dialogue, noticing areas of held tension and ease. When we understand how our body, breath, and mind react to each other we have more choices available to us in how we respond to life around us. Because we practice, we can use what we have learned even when we are not practicing. We can choose a different way to think, to breathe. We can sit still with what we feel. We can do it again when we get triggered. We can do it when we have been overwhelmed with joy. We can do it during times of deep sadness. We can access the fruits of our practice at exactly the moments we need it. There only one thing we have to do... practice.


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