Holding the Breath
"Learn to be calm and you'll always be happy"-- Anonymous
I talk so much about the breath in class. I truly believe it's the key to deepening your asana and LIFE practice. When we hold our breath, we are creating a stress response within our bodies. I don't even think that we are aware that we are doing it. We just begin to move or go through the motions of practice or our day and unless we are intentional with our breath, it remains shallow and the diaphragm is not moving well enough to engage our deeper abdominal muscles (the transversus abdominis). If we fully engage our diaphragm, a relaxation response will happen.
In Anatomy and Asana (S. Aldous), she explains how to adopt "relaxed resilience" which starts with the breath and grows with awareness.
"Relaxation in yoga is not "doing nothing". It is the direct experience of the vital and dynamic action that is inside, which occurs when there is space and freedom for movement. It occurs when we don't force the movement. With force, tension develops at the superficial layers of muscles. As relaxation develops (through breath and awareness), superficial muscles can release and deeper muscles can take over. Then, core stability improves, mobility and flexibility increase and strength and power are enhanced. That is relaxed resilience."