Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal massage therapist? You do.
Many of us have enjoyed the deep relaxation of a massage at the hands of a skilled practitioner. When the massage is finished we lie on the table in semi-consciousness with every muscle in our bodies free and released from tension. Ahhhh.
But what about those places that external massage just can’t get to? The organs and glands need stimulation, cleansing and toning too. A massage on a passive body, as glorious as it is, cannot address the body while it’s active.
This is where the conscious breath is used in conjunction with asana and gravity to massage the body in a unique, singular fashion.
Part of the genius of asana, or yoga postures, is how each posture directs energy into the body differently. As we listen to our bodies and breathe deeply we can see where the energy goes and how it pushes into our deep tissues. This is the massaging quality of the breath. Choose any posture and then apply the three-part breath and see where the massaging quality of the breath goes.
An easy, effective way to demonstrate this to yourself is to practice bridge pose. Lie on
your back with the feet just under your knees in front of the buttocks. Push into your feet and raise the sacrum and spinal column off the ground so your torso is suspended like an arched bridge between the feet and shoulder blades. Breathe deeply into your belly and sacrum. Draw the breath up into your heart and push your chin down onto the top of your sternum (breastbone). Keep the breath flowing deeply yet comfortably and be aware of the massage being received by the kidneys and adrenal glands
just above them. Notice also how the wave-like motion of the inhalation compresses all the abdominal organs. Lastly, as the breath fills the lungs from bottom to top, feel it move through the heart and thymus and into the thyroid and parathyroid glands in the throat.
With the chin pushed down onto the sternum, you are performing jalandhara bandha or throat lock. At the fullness of your inhalation this lock forms an energy dam so that the whole interior torso is filled with the energy or prana of the breath. This is the peak of the massaging energy of the breath in this posture.
By applying the deep, three-part breath to this simple pose, so many vital organs and glands are being deeply massaged by the breath from the interior. This is why I tell my students that the breath is your own personal massage therapist.
This is just one example of how the breath plays through the body supplying deep, purifying massage. Use this technique in every pose and note where the breath goes and what gets massaged as a result. Your awareness and practice of this pranayama, or expansion of the universal energy via the breath, will deepen your strength, range of motion and flexibility as it purifies your organs and glands.
Practice in vigor and health!