We come to the mat for a physical practice; to stretch, to improve flexibility, to maximize our strength. While we reap these benefits, over time, we learn that the mat is actually a place to let go. Ideally, when we walk into the studio, we leave our stress and the tension that has built up in our minds and bodies outside, much like trash outside on collection day; during class, its taken away never to be seen again.
Key word in that sentence: Ideally.
To let go – that act – can be the hardest thing you will do on the mat. So how do we learn? How do we allow ourselves to let go? How do we release ourselves from the conversations or arguments that run rampant in our minds? How do we not give our attention over to the to-do list or job that is taking possession of the present moment in our minds?
Since childhood, many of us were taught that emotions such as anger, frustration or anxiety were not worthy of attention; rather they were feelings that should be suppressed. To be given the space to really experience those emotions, to explore in light of ultimately letting those emotions exit the body, were not condoned or appreciated methods. Rather those emotions were feared and as a result, we learned to squash those feelings.
As adults, when those same emotions arise, we continue to do our best to suppress, to ignore and to deny, expecting them to vanish on their own. But instead of dissolving, those emotions live vigorously in our bodies, eating away at our peace until we blow or until we break.
The first time I experienced Lion’s Breath, I thought everyone around me was crazy (I was living in New York City). Half scream, half exhale. What were these weird people doing? Don’t they have any control over their emotions? Ironically, and perhaps not surprisingly, the truth is, I didn’t have solid control over my emotions when it mattered. Whenever I felt frustrated, I cried. Whenever I felt angry, I cried. When I was sad, I let those same tears be the instrument to my emotions. It’s not to say that tears are not a wonderful or necessary release, but when you are at the mercy of your tears because you are at a breaking point, when you have no other tools or access to your feelings, that’s where the issue lies.
So this week, on the mat, the invitation is to give yourself permission to take control and acknowledge those emotions. Can you embrace the present moment and let a few lions loose? Can you allow yourself that gift? After having done so, can you check back in with your body – check back in with the tension and stress and notice what is different? Each time we start class with a few of these lion’s breaths – stressed bodies turned into smiling bodies. If you don’t know how to use the lion’s breath, I've created a fun video - click here!
P.S. Check out the P.P.S. below :)
With love and light,
Rachel (to receive this blog in your inbox, weekly, subscribe below - below the P.P.S. :D)
P.P.S. In case you need some more convincing here are additional supposed benefits of Lion’s Breath:
1) It cures bad breath. I Love this one. Although I havent tested it, it may be worth doing before a date….OR maybe before a first kiss? Imagine: he / she leans in… Pause… Lion's Breath… NOW you are ready. They may think you are weird, but at least you (may) have fresh breath?
2) It relives tension and tightness while brings circulation to the face. Poor circulation is one of the major factors in aging. Who knew that lion's breath is like a facelift?
3) It stimulates the nerves in the eyes. Honestly, we could ALL see better (literally and metaphorically).
4) It opens the third chakra, also called the throat chakra. From a more esoteric stance, opening the third chakra allows greater self-confidence and the ability to speak your truth. You may have confidence, but speaking one's truth lies a bit deeper.
5) It eradicates disease. I have yet to find a study on disease prevention and lion’s breath, but ill take it. At the very least the benefits in reducing stress alone minimize the disease-building cells in the body.