Sitting and breathing
Place the blindfold over your eyes and do not disturb. First find your sitting position. Take one or two minutes to find your balance.
Yesterday we brought the attention to the spinal column. The center of your body, in this position, starts in the pelvis.
In circus language, there is a certain act, which is called the ‘Russian bar.’ In this, there are two men holding a bamboo bar in between them, and there is a girl who stands on top of the bar. The men flip this girl up, and then coming down o the bar she does all kinds of things, like hanumanasana, or Full arm balance. The men are called the ‘porteur’, and the girl the ‘agile’.
It is very interesting to apply this concept in the practice of yoga. We always have to find out which part of the body is the ‘porteur’, and which part is the ‘agile’.
The porteur, the two men holding the bamboo bar, have to be very stable. In this case, the two men that are holding the bar are the two hip joints. By slightly constricting the two hip joints inwards, you create the stability for the buttock bones to elongate downwards, thus creating that rebounding force that then travels back upwards (the agile).
Actually, at the base of your body, there are four points: the two buttock bones, the pubic bone on the front and the coccyx on the back. For a couple of seconds experiment with this: that actually the buttock bones are the real roots, because they are the ones that are on the floor, while the pubic bone and the coccyx are more like air roots of the banyan tree, because they are not really on the floor. What you can experiment with is that those four points should go down equally to the floor. That is not always the case.
There are four possibilities: the possibility that the body goes too much to the left, too much to the right, too much to the front, or too much to the back. To experience this swing the body slightly over the right buttock bone, over the right hip, and feel how that changes your balance. Then come back to the center and then swing the body slowly and carefully over the left buttock bone, and feel how it changes your balance. If you watch the spinal column internally you also see how, when you go over the right buttock bone, the lumbar spine curves to the right, and when you go to the left it curves over the left. Thus you see that the spine always has to compensate on the gravitational line, otherwise the body will fall over. You have to come to a point where you are exactly in balance between the two buttock bones.
Then you can do the same thing with the pubic bone and the coccyx. With some people, especially when the hip joints are not really working properly, the pelvis is rotated backwards; they are sitting more on the coccyx and sacrum area. On the other hand, if you are too enthusiastic, too hard working, you might roll the pelvis too far forward and so you are rolling the pubic bone down to the floor.
Just experiment with this and feel the effect is has on the lumbar spine. When you roll the pelvis backwards, bringing the coccyx further down to the floor, you feel how the lumbar spine is pulled backwards, while if you are really trying very hard to roll forwards so that the pubic bone goes down to the floor you can feel how the lumbar spine caves in. Again you have to come to the position where everything is held in an even and easy balance.
Yesterday I isolated the spinal column out of the body, to move everything away from the spinal column. Today I want to talk more about the relationship between the pelvis and the chest.
The body has three ‘boxes’: the head box, the chest box and the pelvis box. For many people the posture is held too high up, either in the chest or in the head.
Yesterday we showed that many people push the head too far forward. In that case you have to bring the head backward, so that the back of the head is floating over the shoulder blades.
On the other hand, some people might be too eager to lift the rib cage up, because you are told to do so. Those two boxes are like the top part of a three-deck bus, not a London double-deck bus, but a three-deck bus. You can imagine what happens to the bus if all the weight is held up in the two top stories: the bus is going to be very unstable.
The center of gravity is low in the pelvis. If you shoot an arrow through the two hip joints, and then shoot another arrow from the front of the lower abdomen, halfway between the navel and the pubic bone, and through the second sacral vertebra, where those two arrows cross, in the middle of the body, this is where your center of gravity is, what they call in Japanese Hara, the Kanda in India. This is the center where the body should rest.
It is very easy, when you think of that center in the lower pelvis, to collapse the whole body. You do not want to do that.
Keep the head in alignment with the shoulder joints, the ears, and feel that hook on top of the head, with the cord pulling you up towards the sky. The head is being pulled up to the sky, and that helps to elongate the spinal column. Like yesterday, isolate the spinal column out of the chest, and let it elongate upwards towards the head, which is being pulled up.
Then, look at your rib cage, look at your lower ribs, and if you have the habit of pushing those ribs forward and pulling the body up from the ribs, then you can use several images to find your bearings.
One image, for instance, for people who have a very big rib cage which always pulls upwards is that the chest is like an umbrella, with the spine as the stick of the umbrella and the ribs like the cloth which is raised high as if it is raining. Some people always walk around as if it is raining, with the umbrella open.
So, keeping the head high, gently let the umbrella close, let the cloth fall down onto the pelvis, without losing the height and the respectability of the spinal column, the dignity of the spinal column; let the parachute or the umbrella fall nicely and drop into the lower abdomen, and let the lower abdomen receive that energy and bounce it back up again, without reopening the umbrella.
Another image that I like to use when people hold the body up from the chest and the pelvis and legs are kind of dangling is an image from the aquarium. If you go to an aquarium you can see those beautiful jelly fish: many people are like those jelly fish in the sense that they have this wide and open chest like the body of the jelly fish, and the pelvis, the lumbar spine and the legs are hanging down from this umbrella shaped jelly fish like its tentacles.
Bring everything down to the lower abdomen, and then hold the whole structure of the body up from there.
We have three points of reference:
first the central point of gravity, which is in the center of the lower abdomen and from which the whole body is held up from, supported by;
second, out of that point the lumbar and thoracic spine grow upwards, vertebra per vertebra:
third, the fontanel (the Brahmarandha) is held high by that small cord attached to the head that is pulling you upwards.
These are your three points of reference: the lower abdomen, top of the head and the spinal column.
Then bring your attention to your breathing. Breathing is of course an affair of the lungs, the rib cage, but this is not entirely true, because actually the whole body breathes.
First bring your attention to the chest, and watch the lungs inside your chest. Watch the left lung, watch the right one. Find out where you are breathing, are you breathing more on the left, more in the right, more on the front, more on the back?.
I give you two minutes the time to follow your own breathing internally and find out if your lungs are like a balloon, a round balloon, where the air moves in all directions simultaneously, or whether your lungs are lumpy, and the air goes a little bit here, a little bit there, with empty spaces in the middle. Watch your own breathing.
Then, without paying any special attention to the breathing, we are going to expand this breathing to fill the entire body. This means a little subtlety, and I can give you a bit of help: we are going to play wind chimes. Shift your attention to the outside and listen to the trees, the wind in the trees as it rustles the leaves. Leaves rustling in trees are a very nice tool to use. In a way it is the breathing of the trees, the trees are also inhaling and exhaling, and that makes a rustling sound.
Sound can only move through a vehicle. What you are going to do now in order to continue what we did yesterday, this expansion movement, we are going to do it now from the breathing. You are listening to the rustling of the trees, to the sound of the leaves, and then you are going to breathe into the sound of the leaves.
You can start simply with your chest, your rib cage. When your rib cage expands, you push it outwards as it were; you expand the rib cage out into the sound of the wind in the leaves. You transcend in a way the skin on the rib cage, so your breathing is no longer inside the chest, the rib cage, but you are breathing way beyond the rib cage.
Again, the more you relax the skin, the more you can breathe outward, going into the sound of the wind. Breathe into the sound; on the inhalation you breathe into the sound; on the exhalation, you retreat from the sound.
Then gradually add the rest of the body, so the next wind wave which comes, add your arms and shoulders. Breathe through the arms into the sound, so that you feel that the arms are also participating in this expansion as you breathe. You can actually feel the breathing going through the arms and shoulders outwards.
So as the wind comes, go into it. On the inhalation, you go into the sound, on the exhalation, you retreat: a wave action. Go into it, and then retreat.
On the next wind wave you are going to add your pelvis and lumbar, the lumbar region.
On the sound, on the wind wave go into it, with the breathing coming out of the pelvis, out of the lumbar spine, out of the lumbar region, out of the kidneys, into the sound of the wind. Go into it as it comes. Out and in, but always way beyond the skin.
Breathe from the pelvis, from the lumbar into the sound, into the wind wave, breathe from the lumbar. Like yesterday, the more you relax the muscles, the more you can breathe into the sound.
On the next wind wave, add the legs, the thighs, the feet, the whole body breathing. Go with the legs into the sound on the inhalation, the whole body into the sound, into the sound as it comes at you.
On the next wave you take the last part of your body, which is your head. It is the most difficult and the most fun and the most rewarding.
When the sound comes, expand your whole head into the sound, the brain, the face, everything, the muscles of the face, go into the sound with your breathing, so your breathe from the center of your head outward, into the sound.
Take a point in the center of your head and already move outwards from there. Go into the wave as it comes. The face, the brain, relaxing from the center outward. Watch your facial muscles, ease into the sound with your relaxation.
You can do this exercise any time you are outside, where you can breathe parallel to the sound of the wind, which is very nice. You can parallel the movement or sound with your inhalation and exhalation, but keep the skin completely non-existent: the body becomes like a huge cloud which expands and retreats according to your own rhythm but also according to the sound around you.
Then, without opening your eyes, keeping the blindfold on, just change your legs, stretch the knees, stretch the legs, and when you are ready, when the body has come back to normal, you can take your blindfold off.
Note: We have taken ourselves out of nature, out of the world; we do not even remember that we too are a product of nature, that we are an animal, just like all the other animals. Therefore the skin has become very tight, and we are inside the skin. We live inside the skin, and then we try to communicate, but that does not work.
The skin prevents us from being in communication with the outside, it prevents us from remembering that we are only an animal, another product of nature, we are only another natural thing, and it prevents us from being a conduit.
If we can take the skin away, and really feel that the atoms of the body are like a cloud and expand and expand, so that the energy, the wind, everything goes through, then it means that we are not generating our own energy inside our skin, but we are just taking the energy as it goes through us, and we use it. We are catching it as it goes through us. So there is no barrier.
Tomorrow we can use another image, another way, how to get in touch with our inner body, and how the inner body can use what is around us in order to become bigger and bigger, more in tune with everything.
I think it is very important for the health to be completely open for the energy
In one of my books I wrote that if you have water washing over cement, it does not go through, but if you are on the beach and the wave comes, you watch the water and in a couple of seconds it is gone, because it just goes through the sand. If we can be like the sand on the beach and let everything just go through.
I got that idea years ago, I was reading in a Zen book, about a young swords man in Japan, who was a champion samurai and very jealous, he wanted to be number one. He knew that there was an old teacher somewhere whom everybody said was the best.
So he challenged him to a fight, but the old man refused. But one day the old man consented, so they set up a meeting.
They drew lots, to see who would strike first, and the old man won. So he drew his sword, and hit the young man on the head, but the sword broke, so strong was the young man.
Then it was his turn. The young man took his sword, raised it high, and hit the old man on the head, but to his surprise the sword went straight through the body of the old man without leaving a trace.
This story set me thinking that we too are so hard, and everything is inside, instead of being open. When you are open and porous, you have much more energy, because you get it from everywhere, you do not generate it yourself.