You'll likely be familiar with how important breathing is to the practice of yoga.
It's a remarkably effective and direct way to leave behind your whirling mind, once you've become comfortable with it.
If you've not yet discovered the benefits of breath focus, you may wonder what all the fuss is about and decide that the usual everyday breathing we do all day long is sufficient.
Breath focus, or pranayama in Sanskrit, is a profound and accessible tool that can offer a way into a direct experience of yourself, your mind, body and breath. A bridge out of being lost in thought, lost in worries, day dreaming etc. You move beyond thinking about the breath and become able to simply experience the breath with full awareness. At first maybe just for micro-moments, but over time in more sustained ways.
If you've ever tried this, you might be thinking, easier said than done. But like many things that are worthwhile, it might take a bit of practice to get the hang of it.
12 count hand mudra
A technique we've been using in my yoga classes this term which can be hugely helpful, is the 12-count hand mudra. A brilliant device for accessing the breath awareness more fully. A simple hand gesture that once it is familiar enough is a great addition to your yoga toolkit.
Using the left hand turned up, the back of the hand resting on your thigh, you use the thumb to count round the 12 inner creases of each finger (inside the knuckles).
- Place the thumb on the first crease of your first finger, and take a breath (inhale and exhale).
- Then on the next breath, moving the thumb to the middle crease on the first finger.
- With 12 creases to count on your fingers, you move round in a spiral shape among the creases. With 12 movements of your thumb, 12 breaths, you finally reach the middle of your ring finger (as long as you didn't forget to move your thumb and remembered to only touch each finger crease once).
Simple but effective
It is similar to counting on beads, and serves the same purpose. It helps you move away from your thoughts, and for a moment leave behind your conceptual mind (counting after all is conceptual).
The counting has been migrated to the hand so the mind is free to experience the breath more directly and fully. You are able to count without thinking about counting. This technique, once it is practiced enough for it to be comfortable and easy, allows you to move out of thinking and come more fully into directly experiencing the breath and the sensations in your hands. From here, you can experience each breath and moment in a new way.
It is a simple idea. As a technique it doesn't have the glitter of a complex body shape or flow of movements, but in its simplicity lies its power.
So ... a challenge for you
- Week 1: Use the mudra everyday to learn it and become comfortable with it
- Week 2: Then se it every day with more subtlety and more proficiency and notice the difference.
Simply take 12 quiet breaths, counting on your hand. Notice what you experience when you do it, how it leaves you, and if this has any bearing on the rest of your day.
Enjoy and feel free to get in touch with questions.
Founded YogaSpace in 2009
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