Thursday, June 9, 2011

At the beginning, it's all about breath

It's been a while since I've taught a beginners class, and as I prepare to teach tonight - the first beginners class on a Thursday night at the co-op - I find that I'm really excited. Not necessarily to 'get back to the basics' because the basics are always there when I'm planning classes anyway. More, it's an opportunity to construct a different sort of class to the one I usually teach.

When you have familiar people in class, and you know which parts of their bodies move and which don't, that's a wonderful opportunity to play a little, to push beyond a few mental and perceived physical limitations. But the idea of a beginners class is that students come in, get comfortable and then, hopefully, move onto general classes. So I won't be as playful; I would rather focus on what unifies the practice across all styles and teachers.

Fundamentally, the one unifying element is breath. Breath can also be the hardest thing for new - and experienced - students to get their heads around. We all think we just breathe and that's that - no thought required. Yet how we breathe directly affects how we feel and move. If you're not breathing correctly, you're not going to feel great and your body won't be able to move freely. And, to be frank, in Western societies we're just not that good at breathing. We hunch our shoulders forwards and constrict our lungs; we breathe into our upper chests and never explore the 'scary' depths of the lower lungs. Then we wonder why we get headaches and feel tired and just have general malaise.

So I'm taking this beginners class still as an opportunity to play at little - but with breath. Moving meditations with breath. Sitting still with breath. Lying with breath. In between there will be some postures, of course. But mostly it will be about breath, and the deliciousness of breathing. At least, I hope that's how it will come across ...