- by Natalie Alexander
Healing in the Breath
Tears trickle down my cheeks and pool into my ears as I lie quietly on my back. I’m not sure why the tears are falling but I let them silently come. My body is relaxed, my arms by my side and palms facing upwards. I’m listening to music that moves me, I’m breathing slowly, I’m in the moment…. then our instructor gently encourages us to open our eyes. The ten minute relaxation period draws this exercise class to an end. This is ‘Body Balance,’ a fitness class that continues to gift me with pleasure and healing. What I find unique about this class is that every movement is executed with controlled breathing. It is the breath that stabilises me, the breath that grounds me, the breath that reminds me I am present and here. Combined with the practice of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates, this class strengthens my mind and body as I stretch my way through multiple poses. It is the breathing that positions me in every pose. As I pivot onto one leg in a very challenging balancing pose, my mind can’t rush ahead and think about the jobs that I need to get done. Instead I focus on my breath and concentrate on the precision and flow of the posture. Pilates teaches me how essential breathing is as I attempt movements with strength and grace. The breath ties my body, mind and spirit together. Getting out of your head and into your body Throughout the class the instructor is constantly reminding us to listen to our bodies. What does this mean? It means a number of things, such as drawing my attention away from my thinking to how my body is actually moving. This is why I love the Tai Chi warm up in which my eyes track the every movement of my hands, flowing to and fro. It is this harmonious flow that helps me to cultivate the ‘qi’ or life energy within my body.
Listening to my body means averting my eyes from my neighbour. Drawing from the principles of yoga, this class discourages comparisons with others. Instead, it’s about appreciating my own body, even thanking my body. This instills a sense of respect for my own unique body. This is refreshing for me in a counter culture which seems to worship the young, the hip, the beautiful. Really listening to my body means asking myself ‘can I go further or do I need to go easy on myself?’ I need continuous reminders to respectfully stop and listen to my body. Recently I put down my study books and dashed out to a favourite dance class. My dance teacher looked at me and warmly welcomed me. She knows I’ve been diligently studying and have missed many classes. As I rush to find a spot on the dance floor, she wisely says: “Natalie, it’s time to get out of your head and into your body.” She’s so right and as I dance I feel great pleasure. I become in-tune with my body and the clutter of thoughts disappear with every leap and twirl. The music lifts my soul and carries my body into joyful spontaneous expressions. Breathe and let the tears flow So I wonder why it is that my tears persistently flow in the final minutes of relaxation during my Body Balance class. Perhaps it’s because I’ve taken a reprieve from the challenges of the day and entered into the moment. Perhaps it’s because my breath has slowed down the stress that has been building in my chest. Perhaps the breath is allowing emotions to rise to the surface and weep their way out of my body. Or perhaps the tears flow because I feel I am enough and am no longer measuring myself according to others. If I really surrender to the breath, there is a peace beckoning me to stop struggling and just be. In this breath I contemplate the existence of the Divine, also know as the Breath of Life. Jewish Rabbi Arthur Waskow speaks of the word 'YHWH' that is described as the Name of God, “It is unpronounceable in my view not because we are forbidden to pronounce it ― that understanding is in my view a way of avoiding the deeper truth ― but because if one tries to do so, pronouncing these four strange letters WITHOUT any vowels, one simply breathes.”
Natalie is passionate about human rights issues, matters of the mind and interfaith insights. When not in deep thought, Natalie loves to travel, drink good coffee and keep fit where she resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. See all previous articles by Natalie Alexander