Even if you have never done yoga it is likely you have heard the jingle “Body Mind Breath” before. And it’s also probably likely that you think that improving your Body-Mind-Breath relationship is important. But how do we do that?
Start with the Body
In Iyengar Yoga we start with the body. Compared to the mind and breath the body is something tangible–something we can see and feel. Most of us already know the body better than the mind and breath. So we start there.
We explore the body through the poses. As new students we learn the basics of the preliminary poses and then build up from there. We learn the shapes of the poses and how to create some actions within them. Such as how to lift the thighs to straighten the legs while standing. How to stretch the arms to open the chest.
Next comes the Breath
The exploration of the body introduces us to the breath. Often the first introduction to the breath is the realization that we are holding it, not breathing. Students need to first be reminded to keep breathing in the poses. Then, they are taught to notice that an exhalation or inhalation can help with certain movements. This is first indication that body and breath are related.
In every class I try to teach at least one quiet pose, often done with support of the props, where we focus just on the breath. I show students the pose on my own body and demonstrate the breath. I say something like “watch what happens to my ribs and abdomen when I take a bigger inhalation.” Then, they try it themselves.
The Mind is noticed last
In the supported quiet poses I point out that the mind has to “get out of the way” so that the breath can be noticed. If the mind is over active the breath cannot even begin to be observed, let alone guided.
I think it’s safe to say that of the three the mind is the most difficult to observe and learn how to work with. But once the student can begin to witness their body, mind and breath are connection in a tangible way anything is possible. Once a beginning has been made you can approach the poses from the mind or from the breath or from the body.
But first, a beginning has to be made. Start by coming to class and learning a few poses.