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Season 2 - Episode 10

Four-Part Breath

30 min - Practice
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Kira guides us through a simple investigation of the four parts of the breath within a gentle movement practice.
What You'll Need: Mat


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Let's move into a very simple investigation of the four parts of the breath. We'll begin supine, addressing the belly, the diaphragm, and the heart. And then we'll bring it up into a simple forward fold, a simple back bend, and end with a sit. Thank you, Alana, for being here. So lie yourself on down on your mat.

If it would feel good, let the knees bend, soles of the feet on the floor, and drop the knees together. And let your hands come to rest on the region of your navel. We'll start here. Begin to start to tune towards the bottom of the exhale. And as you bring your attention towards the bottom of the exhale, the usual natural result is that the bottom of the exhale will start to reveal herself.

We reveal ourselves to those who pay attention, who seem interested. And so your curiosity and your genuine affection will allow her to start to blossom. And as the bottom of the exhale starts to blossom a little bit, what can then start to be seen is the beginning of the rise of the inhale. And as you start to catch that moment, that moment that turns from the bottom of the exhale to the beginning of the inhale, allow your attention to follow the inhale. And you'll begin to notice that just as there's a bottom of the exhale, and there's a turn towards the inhale, there's what we might refer to as a top of the inhale, a slight pause.

And then eventually there is a descent into the exhale. And whatever your attention gets interested in, in this circle, to me it always feels a little bit more like a lips. Whatever your attention gets caught on will reveal itself a little bit more. And so part of the play in this four-part breath investigation is to allow yourself to be able to smooth out the edges a little bit. So almost as if you were on an ellipse so that you can follow the inhale up and allow the top of the inhale to feel like you're going around a corner.

Follow the exhale down and feel like you're going around a corner. Just what's happening in length, or space, or depth, or shallowness, yes. And while we classify the breaths as having four parts, it starts to become obvious that there are infinitely more than four parts, but there are these four defined segments that we've simplified the breath into in order to be able to create some understanding. A few more moments here at the belly. And sometimes what happens as we investigate the breath is that we move beyond the breath, or deeper than the breath, and breathing suddenly seems effortful because we've dropped into these deeper layers of what we've talked a little bit about this season of prana.

Still relax the effort here. And now see if it makes sense to move your awareness up towards the region of the diaphragm. And if it helps to move your hands, some people have the elbow and shoulder ability to bring their hands around the edges of the diaphragm, just like we did when we were working with partners. Some of you, that won't quite work, and you'll need to create almost a hug, like as if you were cold. So see which of those works for you, either hands around the diaphragm with the elbows wide, or maybe more of like a hug, like as if you were cold or five years old and pouting, mimicking what we did with our partners earlier.

One of those will be more comfortable. And now the same idea, but instead of starting at the bottom of the exhale, let your awareness start on the movement of the inhale. So be aware of how as you inhale into your hands, okay, there's an expansion and a spaciousness. Be aware of turning that corner into the descent of the exhale. Be aware of the bottom of the exhale, and then be aware of the rise of the inhale.

And just notice, so as you're just sort of like, see if you just, and again, turning those corners. And being aware that if you observe your breath here, it's probably a different experience than if you observe your breath lower in the belly. So when we play with observing the breath, where we're observing the breath really matters. Yes. And just notice which here, which part of that four-part cycle seems to have the most interest for you.

And one of the greatest temptations and the number one killer of learning is to imagine that we get it. To maintain a relationship with the mystery is to maintain curiosity. Okay, now the third point that we're going to bring our awareness to, so relax the effort here. You can relax your hands, and now bring your awareness to the region of your heart center, and if it helps, it often helps to bring one or two hands to the heart center. Alana has chosen to bring both of her hands, you might have one hand.

Sometimes it's natural for the other hand to find the belly again, or be down along the side. But maintain more of a keen connection with the hand that's touching the heart, and with the hand that's touching the heart, again, starting at being aware of the rise of the inhale first, that moment at the top of the inhale, that descent into the exhale, and that bottom of the exhale. And again, the temptation is to breathe your heart. More of the play here in this observation is to do our best, and it's almost impossible, but do our best to step back enough, so that we can study more accurately, like being a wildlife camera without the animal knowing that you're watching. Yes, beautiful, notice how what's interesting about the breath might be different here than in the belly.

And as you notice, the difference is, record the data, a couple more moments. Beautiful, okay, relax this effort, and just rest. Arms down along your side and pause. Then eventually hug the knees into your chest and wobble a little bit. And then allow for a simple spinal twist, arms out from the shoulders, palms turn up.

Bring the knees over to the right, and bring the left palm on top of the right palm, just kind of organize there. And then once you feel organized, reach your left palm back over the top of your head, back over to the left, letting the elbow bend. Now here in this shape, allow your awareness to be on the part of the body that's not quite on the earth. For most of you, that's going to be the left side, okay? So allow your awareness to be on the part of the body that's held above the earth, okay, the part that is essentially in tension.

And can you just, can you start to find out how to investigate with the breath? So as opposed to simply manipulating the breath to get something to happen, can you just study how this area feels as you inhale here, and how the area responds as you exhale? What is the quality of the area as you inhale? And what is the quality of the area as you exhale? Yes.

All last few moments. So nice. Now you're going to lead with your top left leg. Your top left leg is going to bring you back, and then eventually you're going to find your way to the other side. Your knees are going to come over to the left.

Your right palm is going to come onto your left palm. You're going to organize, and then you're going to open your right arm back over to the right. Adjust it so it feels right for you. And then it's the same request. So bring your awareness to the area that is held above the earth, so that the area that's in suspension, okay?

And just be aware of how the area responds, like really study how the area feels as you allow the inhale to be here. Feel what happens to the tone and the quality of your experience of the area in the exhale. Everything to tune into the results of engagement. Because as you can start to feel how an area responds when you move towards it, and how an area responds when you soften and deepen. Without getting caught up in the PR campaign of the inhale or the exhale or the talking points on one or the other, but starting to be able to be in relationship.

One more moment. And then as you're ready, you'll lead with that top right leg. It will bring you back. You'll wobble a little bit. Super nice.

And then as you're ready, cross your ankles. You'll rock and roll your way up towards the seat. And set yourself up for a simple forward fold. Legs extended out in front of you. Snuggle it back.

Now, again, notice, catch. See if you can catch. And we'll explore this a lot more in our asana seasons. But see if you can catch that sort of like initial desire to kind of go after the situation. Let your hands come down along your legs.

And start from the belly. Like start the feeling of the breath in the belly. And just like breathing from the belly just like and sorry, as you know, like you're not really breathing from the belly, but using the belly as your attunement point. Can you feel the tone of the inhale to the shape? And can you feel the tone of the exhale?

And can you feel the invitation or inspiration of the inhale? And the seduction of the exhale? And you might choose to stay in the belly. That has one particular tone. Or you might move to just experiment with bringing the breath into the heart.

Like really staying with the presence of the breath in one of these two centers, the belly or the heart. Also being aware, and this is a big ask, but also being aware of how does the inhale feel in the backs of the legs? And how does the exhale feel in the backs of the legs? So how does the shape respond? And while I've reduced my instructions to just inhale and exhale, as you know, there's also the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale.

Just about another minute here as this is just a sort of a suggestion of investigation. I will warn you that if you start to investigate your postures this way, your practice does start to be very few postures. As one posture gives up so much, yes, beautiful. The suggestions we're making are really only here to help point your awareness and give you things to be curious about as a way to be curious about yourself. And the forward fold is most often associated with the exhale breath as it is rumored to be more calming and more relaxing, but that is not true for everybody.

And so exploring what the inhale allows, exploring what the exhale demands. As you're ready, chin into the chest, you'll let yourself roll all the way back up and pause and just bake in the experience of this, sit in the sauce of your own investigation. This is the form of the pratyahara, drawing the senses towards the inward experience as opposed to pushing ourselves towards an outward goal. Let yourself transition back onto your back for a simple bridge pose. I'm going to just fold the blanket up so that you have your feet on the mat.

Organize for you with your heels in line with the sit bones and your arms down along the side. Now, as we spoke about earlier, the bridge is a shape of an inhale. There's an expression and opening of the heart. So wait as you deliberately inhale and exhale everything. And then allow for that inspiration of the inhale.

Use the exhale to come up, press into the feet and draw the hips up. Pause where it's still easy for you, relaxing the buttocks and the throat and the back of the neck. And then just wait, wait for the inhale that encourages the lift of the chest, the wiggling of the arms underneath. You might be interlacing like Alana's showing. You might prefer to press down through the pinky fingers.

The play is to come into a shape that is easy enough for you to hold so that you can invest the aid here. So now you're in the shape of the inhale. Feel what it feels like to inhale and be at the top of the inhale. Like feel this, to emphasize this. Once you kind of start to catch that now, can you balance it by really starting to tune towards the feeling of the exhale, the bottom of the exhale.

And I've been emphasizing the heart as the place of vocal because I believe and have sense that it's a little easier because it's more available. If you find you're able to let the belly be more of the center, then by all means, please pursue. Yes. Softer in the back of the neck, easier in the throat, yes. Then eventually and only as you're ready, you'll come upon the inhale that will allow you to release your hands, reach them up to the sky.

And as you exhale, you'll roll on back down, upper back, mid back, low back. Either widening the feet, knees together or feet together, knees wide and pause. And observe. You're observing a few things. You're literally observing the results of tuning towards something more subtle than the external actions of the shape.

You're also tuning to the result of coming out of the back bend. So often, just as there's a brightening of relief when we come out of the forward fold, there's an easing and like a honey relief when we come out of the heart opener. Only you can know. Now, some of you might choose to rest here. Some of you might choose to come up towards the seat.

So just choose if you'd rather just rest, rest. You have that option too, okay. Otherwise come up to a seat for our last part. Roll in, big deliberate inhale and exhale everything. And just follow the guidance of your own spine, let the central channel of you align you.

If it helps to offer a little bit encouragement of the inhale, do so. If it helps to offer the encouragement of the exhale, do so. But just resting any manipulation of the breath. You are connected to the same source from where all these teachings have come. And with just proper investigation, proper time, loving kindness, curiosity, and awe, these mysteries will begin to reveal themselves to you, but there's no shortcut.

There's no quickie. It's like any relationship, attentiveness, time, and genuine curiosity. Thank you for your investigations, love.


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