In every class I teach I encourage my students to use deep, diaphragmatic breathing in each posture. I must sound like a broken record when I constantly encourage students to take the breath into their bellies, solar plexus and finally into the tops of the lungs. I liken the breath to a wave that begins in the belly and swells upward. I try to get my students to think of the breath as the tide of the body, ebbing and flowing with the action of the diaphragm. Finally, and this is one of my favorites, I use the term “the fingers of the breath.”
The fingers of the breath are something I’ve noticed in my own practice. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are three main forces that reach deeply into the body, mind and soul as we practice. They are the pose itself, gravity and the breath. Each asana places the body into a unique relationship to gravity. In so doing the pose harnesses the force of gravity in an exclusive way. Every posture addresses the muscles, bones, joints, organs, glands and even our very genes and DNA in a singular fashion. Finally, the breath, within the architecture of the pose, pushes deeply into our beings to deliver a rich, powerful massage that reaches comprehensively into every cell. When we recruit the diaphragm and use our lungs to capacity with each breath while we perform our asana, the breath leverages its force into the deep recesses of tissue, bone and sinew. It pries open blocked areas of congestion. It is during the last portion of the breath as we fill the upper lobes of the lungs that we can feel the fingers of the breath.
One of the most dramatic demonstrations of the power of the breath can be experienced in Setu Bandhasana or Bridge Pose, especially if the practitioner clasps the hands under the sacrum and walks the shoulders under the torso. A diaphragmatic breath in this posture will penetrate the lower back and the fingers of the breath will grasp and grip the sacrum, sacroiliac joints, kidneys and adrenal glands. At the same time, the front body opens as the breath stretches the abdominal organs. A similarly profound sensation can be experienced in Ustrasana or Camel Pose.
In an opposing posture like seated forward bend or Paschimotanasana, the abdominal organs receive a thorough compression while the back body opens and lengthens. The full capacity, diaphragmatic breath exerts maximum, safe pressure into the entire body.
When we perform these complimentary oppositional poses in our practice sessions, we provide an unparalleled manipulation for the entire physique.
While we remain comfortably in our postures breathing with depth and awareness, we are pushing prana (life force) and blood circulation into the depths of our cells. This pranic massage cleanses and rejuvenates our viscera increasing our range of motion and flexibility by the cleansing fingers of the breath. Our internal organs receive a massage that only the breath can give them. We do ourselves incalculable good when we use the gift of our breath to its greatest capacity.
What this all adds up to is a human being prepared to practice union with the divine all that is. This is the intersection of the humanity and infinity.
Note: I’m always watching where my readers live in the world. I’m amazed that people all over the planet read and follow my blog. I am humbled. Thank you.
The part of our relationship that I want to cultivate further is hearing from you about your practice, your ideas and experiences. Please, help me emerge from the bubble of my isolation. Please drop me a line; let’s connect.
I so related to your description of what our breath does for us in a pose, Tim. I will use some of your descriptions in a future class!
Thank you, Cathy for being in touch. I’m so grateful for your teaching practice in our community. You help so many people build healthier lives.
Thank you Tim! Your post inspired me to do some pranic breathing at my desk! Later today I will do these poses and get the great benefits you described!
Awesome, Laura. Your rewards will be many and manifest!