This episode is part of a course.
Yoga Teacher Fundamentals Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 4

She Loves to Be Inspired

25 min - Practice


Let's explore how the breath responds to inspiration vs. worry. Kira, with the help of Alana, helps tune our skills of focus by encouraging us to hold our attention steady with mantra. We watch the effects on the body and the breath.
What You'll Need: No props needed


Read Full Transcript

Let's explore how the breath responds to inspiration. So find yourself supine, thank you Alana for being here. Knees bend soles of the feet on the floor, arms up over the top of your head and start to make your way into your version of windshield wiper. You've done this before, as you inhale knees are center, exhale knees are to the side. Inhale knees center, exhale knees to the other side.

Handful of rounds just to kind of get in the mood. To start to tether your attention inward using the breath as the bridge. Generally what we refer to as the body is right here. Generally what we refer to as the mind is anywhere but here. And the breath helps merge the two, nice, beautiful.

Next time your knees are over to the right so that you have more awareness in the left side, lengthen a little bit through that left leg, reach up a little bit through that left arm and be a little bit more deliberate with letting the lung tether your attention. And be specific with trying to reach your awareness to areas of the lungs that are less obvious to you. The back and the bottom, yes, gorgeous, inhale knees come back up center and as you exhale and the knees come over to the left and you're more aware of your right side, again let the physicality of the lung help draw your attention in. Be aware of areas that are less obvious, the bottom of the lung, the back of the lung. And here now is it possible to notice, and this isn't a trick question, this is just an invitation inward.

Is it possible to notice that your right lung is larger than your left? Okay, inhale, let the knees come back to the center, exhale knees back over to the right so you're back in the left lung. So now you have this question and you have the comparison. So as you bring your awareness back into the left lung, is it obvious that the left lung is perhaps smaller than the right? Now anatomy is not true all across the board, but in general most of us, while the right lung has about three lobes, the left lung for most of us has two lobes because it has sacrificed one of its lobes for the heart.

So as you're here on the left side, can you let your awareness be subtle enough to be more aware of this relationship between the left lung and the heart? Can you feel the embrace? Can you feel the sacrifice? Can you feel the relationship? The answer might be no, and always better to be honest.

Okay, inhale, bring the knees back up center, exhale knees over to the left one more time just to see if you can now be aware of the right lung and how she may or may not feel bigger. It's a subtle thing. But as in yoga, as we endeavor to start to touch the unseen, to touch the more subtle, it's useful to start with what's right underneath our nose and in the more obvious realm, in the physical realm. So beautiful. Okay, inhale, bring your knees back up center, and arms can stay overhead or come down along your side, whatever is more comfortable for you, and we want to be in a spot that's comfortable on your back for a little bit more exploration here, so try this, widen your feet a little bit and let your knees fall together, and for some of you, that's going to be ideal for your back, that internal rotation feels just right.

If it doesn't quite feel right, try this, bring the soles of the feet together and bring the knees wide, and see if this is more comfortable on your back. And then choose the one that's more comfortable, either keeping your knees wide or letting your knees come together. And if there's a third option that only you know about, try that. And then the next part of our lesson here is to see if we can bring our awareness towards three possible regions of the heart. So here, in this position now, bring your attention into your left lung and allow your breath to help tether you.

So now you have an awareness of your left lung and you're able to go in here, yes. And with your attention in the left lung, can you be aware of the location of the physical heart, which while she sits center, she leans left, is her location obvious to you? Soften behind the back of the heart, soften up through the jaw, yes. And so as we continue our practice, and I ask you to bring your awareness to your heart, you might have the most attunement to your physical heart. A second location of the heart is what the yogis refer to as the spiritual heart, or sometimes you'll hear the word anahata.

And the approximate location is suggested to be right behind the breastbone, so much more in the center. And we tend to have more awareness in the front of the body, so most of us tend to be able to bring our awareness to the center. It helps if you can drop your awareness a little bit more inward. There's a three-dimensionality to the spiritual heart, and in the last season, we spent some time opening up the back region of the heart, let the back region of the heart open. And so you might have more awareness in this spot.

Together though, let's see if we can find a third location, which I feel is the most useful for this first experiment. So if you drop your awareness just below the spiritual heart to the region of the diaphragm, the diaphragm sits right underneath the lungs, and it's intimately tethered to the physical heart. The physical heart, her pericardium, her sheath, is intimately involved with the diaphragm. So just below the spiritual heart and just below the diaphragm, some people feel it center, some people feel it slightly to the left. There's this little spot that our Taoist brothers and sisters refer to as the true heart.

The yogis like to call this spot the wish-fulfilling tree. And you'll know you found it when it says this quality of hollow. There's a sense of, oh, you've been waiting for me. This is the most esoteric of these three loci's of the heart. So either this is available to you, but if it's not quite there or you're working really hard to find it, maybe you go back to the spiritual heart or maybe you go to the physical heart.

With your awareness on one of these three locations, we're going to start to add a mantra to the breath in the interest of exploring the effective inspiration. So as you're ready on an upcoming inhale, on an upcoming inhale, can you mentally hear the word love? And then you'll let it be quiet on the exhale. So as you inhale, you'll kind of hear the word love as if the mantra was the sail being filled by the breath. And as you exhale, letting it be quiet.

And we're just spending a few moments here studying if the insertion of this word has an effect on the breath. Maybe, maybe not, just observing. A few more moments. Beautiful. Okay, gently relax this effort, and as you're ready, let the knees come into your chest and hug your knees.

We'll continue to experiment a little bit with this before we check in, so as you're ready you'll rock and roll up towards the seat or roll to a side and find Sukhasana. And once you find Sukhasana, shin to shin, feet might be a little flexed, wobble a little bit, and before you fold forward, tune to the heart center that's the most available for you, so maybe it's the true heart or the energetic or the physical. And now maybe the word love feels like the right word today. But as you start to fold in, as you start to let your elbows come forward and you start to fold in, open up to maybe it being another word, and the truth is that it's probably already revealed itself, but if it hasn't, maybe it's a word like truth, or freedom, or vastness. And I'm suggesting the English, but of course if you prefer the Sanskrit, like Satya, Virat, Shanti, Nirvana, if words like this have a juicier effect, choose this.

And you're sort of seeking the word that just seems to let the breath open in a really natural easy way. Nice, chin into the chest, roll it on back up, let the hands find their way behind you, maybe fingers turn back behind you. Some of you it'll feel okay to turn the fingers in towards you, but sometimes that's a little bit more demanding on the wrist, so either towards you or away from you, wiggle your shoulders back and down, start to feel the natural blossoming of the heart, and before you go too deep into the posture, with your awareness on the heart, can you feel the word that might help just create the inspiration, allow for the background. Most of you will keep your chin tucked in, some of you might feel natural to let the throat open, some of you might feel natural to let the head fall back, and stay with the word, this is part of the practice. Beautiful slow, let your heart lead as you find your way back up, gently find your left hand onto your right knee, bring your right hand behind you.

And then before you get too anatomically enthusiastic, as we make our way into the twist, can you find the word that helps inspire the lift of the chest, yes, and can you allow the exhale to be quiet as the navel draws back to the spine and you begin to twist. So it's not so much about the actual asana twist, it's more letting the posture help you find the word. And while I've offered kind of big sort of opening words, you might have found a word like safety, like home, like intimate. Beautiful, let the gaze lead you as you unwind, slow, back to center and pause, gorgeous. Reach the cross of your legs as you feel ready, tune to the region of the heart, tune your mind towards the word, and then as you feel ready, you'll start to fold in.

And so part of this practice, so mantra, ma, ma, is usually associated with the word measure, okay, but ma also moves towards the mind as the mind is manas, tra often associated with the word protection, so mantra, protection for our own mind, also sometimes translated as an instrument for the mind. And so part of this practice is you're tuning your skills of focus, dharana, to holding your attention steady to the mantra, but it's much easier to be interested when you're curious about its effect, when you're watching its effect in the body and the breath. Yeah, nice, chin into the chest, slowly roll on back up, let the hands find their way behind you, again fingertips forward or back, wobble a little side to side, and can you let the attunement of your mind help open up through the chest, instead of just making the chest open, can you let the attunement of the mind, attune the breath, attune the lift, maybe the chin stays in, so pretty, maybe the throat opens, maybe the face reaches back, gorgeous. Yeah, so beautiful. Nice, lead with the heart as you're ready, let yourself come all the way back up, left hand finds its way behind you, right hand finds its way on the left knee, and instead of just sort of going into the shape that you know the twist wants, can you let the breath, like can you find what aligns the breath, to align the lift, letting it be quiet on the twist, yes, stay with the subtlety, twists are hard because it gets tempting to kind of go after it a little bit, it's an easy place to get addicted to the, yeah, so pretty Alana, beautiful, okay, inhale here and on your exhale let the gaze bring you back, unwind to center and pause.

And as you're ready, let's make our way into Uttanasana, standing forward fold in whatever method works for you. Let yourself dangle a little bit, and then eventually you'll let your knees bend, hands on your legs for support, chin into your chest, let yourself roll all the way back up slow, feel the belly and feel the heart, nice, and feel the throat and feel the face, shoulders roll back and down. And then find yourself into your version of Uttanasana, feet about hip distance apart, spread the toes wide, big deliberate inhale, exhale, let it happen and ground. Play with the techniques we really explored in season one to root just enough so your heart blossoms, find the alignment of your skull. A common instruction in yoga and in a lot of exercise is breathe deeply, deepen your breath and yet let's really examine that right now.

So just with that instruction that's set with good intention, will you please Alana, will you begin to just deepen your breath? And you too at home, keep your mouth closed, just try to breathe deeper. And as you attempt to breathe deeper, the request is do you notice the effort involved? Like do you notice the stress? Do you notice the strain around the heart and the musculature required?

Does that make sense to you? I hope you can feel that at home. And so now the request is instead of trying to breathe deeper, relax that. It's just just before your inhale, can you mentally find your mantra and can you see if this allows your breath to deepen? Can you compare the mantra and the effect of the mantra with your individual effort?

Couple moments. Okay, relax and let's check in. So Alana, were you able to experience a difference? What did you notice? Well, the mantra shifted.

So on the ground it was love. And when I came up to standing, it was space. And the space, that word helped to increase the breath naturally and it felt a lot slower and more expansive. Could you get as deep or more deep with the mantra as you could from just trying to breathe deeper? So this is sort of what we're trying to get at is that the alignment, it's like we talk a lot sometimes about coordinating the movement with the breath, but something we really start to have to pay attention to is what is the breath coordinated to?

So now it's safe enough to go into one of the most unusual experiments that we like to do and you might be resistant at first, but trust us on this. So find yourself in Tadasana again, big deliberate inhale and exhale, let it happen. And now that we've put all this keen attention to the breath, you're ready for this. Close your eyes and if it feels safe to do so, let yourself go into your favorite latest worry. And as you let yourself go into your favorite latest worry, like let it play, like just go with it.

Let your mind do what it does. Okay, couple more moments. And now for real, allow yourself to notice what's happened to your breath, what's happened to your body, how it feels in the throat, how it feels in the heart, your feet. Okay get out of there, big deliberate inhale, exhale everything. So Alana, what did you notice?

My breath was just shallow, like I felt anxious and just kind of shriveling. Could you see also there was like a wobbling, like you lost your ground. You might have similar experiences, you might have slightly different experiences. This is a really important thing to start to notice because like rarely do we walk around all day long thinking love, space, love, space, right? What do we do?

We carry around so much worry. Now I'm not trying to tell you to not worry because you will, I will, Alana will. We all will. We're designed to do that. The play here is to start to actually become aware of how expensive it is to worry.

Like it's literally choking the life force out of you. And so back to our facts of the breath, right? That the breath, she responds, she's been here the whole time, she never asks anything of you. She loves to be inspired and rarely is worrying inspiring. But once we start worrying it can be difficult to get out of it.

So let's do one more experiment so that you have a tool to take with you. So let's start in Tadasana, feet about hip distance apart, big deliberate inhale and exhale, let it happen, ground. Let your heart brighten and widen. And remember how we tuned our palms in that last season, like let your hands feel a little bit more sensitive, let your skull align. Now if it's safe to do so, let yourself go back into that favorite latest worry, most likely you have another one, something that really has teeth.

Become aware of the physiological effects of the worry. This is absolutely key, become aware of the cues of the worry and now make a decision to get out of there and you have a couple choices. You could just simply start to deepen your breath, right? But see if you can literally change the channel with your mantra, find the word that you can just start to hold on to and change the direction. So change the direction of your thought to allow the breath to respond.

Couple more moments, it's not so easy and sometimes it helps to sigh a little bit, ground a little bit more, you have these skills, tune a little bit more towards your hands, see if you can lessen the grip, nice, beautiful, okay, big deliberate inhale, exhale, everything. Did that work? Did you find space again or did you find a different word? Love, love freed me from the worry, I felt like I couldn't hold on to the worry when I was working with the mantra and the breath. Part of this will ultimately be noticing the addiction to the worry.

Part of this will be noticing the benefits of the worry, that's a slightly different lesson that we'll get into another time. Be willing to try this, next time you find yourself caught in a worry, consider the possibility that it doesn't have to be so and there might be another option. Thank you, Alana, thank you for being here, love.


Sandra Židan
Thank you, Kira and Alana, for reminding us of the importance of breathing when we are worrying about something! We all know that but often forget it in the life! Kind regards!
Kira Sloane
1 person likes this.
Sandra Ž, the breath takes good care of us. xok
Michelle F
1 person likes this.
hola chicas preciosas!
This practise found me this morning and what a simple! pleasure it was to let go of the worry monkey mind that had me in its grip - thank you ,Kira Sloane  thank you @Alanna- thanks became the mantra!
Hope you are both well?
Have  beautiful day!
Kira Sloane
Michelle F, LOVE! So great to connect this morning. Also, seeing this class was such a flashback! xoxo K

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Yoga Anytime Logo

Just Show Up

Over 2,900 yoga and meditation practices to bring you Home.

15-Day Free Trial