Come H(om)e and Breathe
Last week on the blog I wrote about the Sanskrit word, Annamaya Kosha (the food sheath) because I found myself wanting to be helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic and share some of the knowledge I've obtained in completing my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Cultivate Yoga & Wellness. During this time of social distancing and "stay-at-home orders" many including myself are taking time to reflect and/or get back to the basics. I appreciate how my yoga teacher referenced it yesterday in Cultivate's free online Vinyasa practice as, "Coming Home."
Perhaps you're reading this and find yourself asking, "What are Koshas?" In yogic philosophy, Pancha Kosha is the concept that there are five layers or sheaths, around the human soul. The term comes from the Sanskrit Pancha, meaning "five," and Kosha meaning "sheath." Visually, the Koshas have been referenced in resembling Russian nesting dolls or like layers of an onion. The Koshas are known as energetic layers or sheaths that move from the outermost layer, Annamaya Kosha (read last weeks blog featuring the recommended morning beverage to drink via yoga's sister science, Ayurveda) to the deep spiritual layer, Anadamaya Kosha.
The second of the five Pancha Kosha's is Pranamaya Kosha, the breathe sheath. Prana meaning, "energy, breath, or life force," and maya meaning, "consists of." It wasn't until I was paired-up with my yogi sis, Bridget in a yoga class connecting back-to-back through inhalations and exhalations that the light bulb went off for me. I remember driving home from the class feeling awe-struck trying to remember the last time I thought about how vital the breath is. It was a wake-up call, reminding me just how precious life is. Breathing is an involuntary act that our culture doesn't place awareness on and so the breathe is undervalued until it's threatened. I truly understood this when a family member went into the hospital with a double pneumonia last fall.
You may not think about it often, but breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system, which is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. In general, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for governing our responses to stimuli, deciding whether they are threatening, and tripping the signals that tell the body how to react. You may have heard it referenced as the, "fight or flight" response where as the parasympathetic nervous system helps the body calm back down after the danger or stressor has passed.
As we're adhering to the stay-at-home orders, even if you don't do or like yoga I invite you to indulge yourself in one of life's simplest pleasures of noticing your breath. You can keep it simple, either sit on the edge of a chair, lowering your chin just a little with your hands placed on your lap, or lying down on your back in what yogi's call Savasana. In your minds-eye, ask yourself to relax the head, forehead, brow, eyes, nose, lips, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, chest, torso, pelvis, buttocks, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet and toes. Commit yourself to a moment of relaxation and notice the spontaneous rhythm of breath by placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Notice the movement of your ribs and back body, and feel the air pressure change in your belly and diaphragm. Think of breathing into the back-ribs and pelvic rim as 60% of our lung tissue is in the back body. Start by taking some slow and long inhalations (in & out through the nose) feeling the ribs lifting and the lungs following as you evenly melt into a soft exhalation. Invite a long slow inhalation to widen the back body breathing into the back ribs, pause then slowly let out a long exhale. Allow silence within and become the witness to your breath. Release controling your breath, and now just maintain your attention. You are now profoundly still and in that stillness lies the calm. - Namaste
Recommend music: Chevrotain by Dawn Golden Still Life