Breathe. Think. Move. Three simple words repeated over and over again by Leo, my Yoga teacher. There is no better instruction for Yoga than those three words…in that order. The first step or the starting point is to breathe, followed by a thought and finally a movement. The Latin word for breath is spiritus. Thinking is carried out by the mind, and finally movement is carried out by the body. I repeated the three words to myself in silence. “Why?” I asked myself, if the key to Yoga is spirit, mind and body, do we get it wrong by telling ourselves that it’s all about body, mind and spirit? We get it backwards and that could make all the difference in the world.
The breath is the starting point, without the breath there is no rational thought. The mind cannot think straight when there is a lack of oxygen. The breath is the spiritual energy of the Yoga…the foundational component. Everything is built on the breath yet we tend to put the most emphasis on the physical…the tangible…the material components.
The edict, form follows function applies here. So many of us want to look good but we fail to apply the fundamental principles to get it right…whether that be in in Yoga class or at work or in life.
Most of us get the order of things wrong…we want to start every meal with the desert.
At Yoga I am pretty good at focusing on the breath, but on this day I was even better because this new insight allowed my mind to focus even more acutely. After all what are we, but our minds? I felt as if the roof had been lifted. My postures were better…I looked better, I felt better.
At the midpoint of the class Leo started to speak more about a stable base. I thought more about a secure base. How wonderful it would be to go through life knowing I had a secure base. Would that make a difference in my life?
Dentists who practice with an understanding of occlusal principles know that the masticatory system is built around a secure base…so is Yoga, and so is life.
Mindfulness is all the rage these days, yet how can we apply mindfulness without the energy to overcome the distractions of our monkey minds…our comparing minds.
Comparing minds? Like when you are watching someone else’s postures rather than your own, or looking at someone else’s dentistry on Facebook, or just constantly counting everyone else’s crayons.
In order to slow all that down we need a secure base. That secure base is the breath…the spirit. That’s why it comes first.
Viktor Frankl said:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
It is in that space that we get to use our minds…our rational minds rather than our monkey or comparing minds. That’s mindfulness, and that is where form follows function…but it requires a secure base…the spirit.
Society teaches us to envy those with great wealth (great postures too)…but I have always wondered about the man who doesn’t have any invisible means of support.
Take the time to build the foundation in everything you do. Use the spirit, the breath to take control of the mind. Reap the external rewards by paying attention to the natural order of things.