Jigsaw puzzles and Baby bellies

Emerging from the darkness of the metro tunnel, the train slows to a halt and the passengers stream off in different directions, at different speeds, on different agendas. Hundreds of people, faces, bodies, colours, a whoosh of energy on and off, in and out. The metro jumps back into life and once again disappears back into the long, black tunnel.

Snapshot moments: a commuter’s tattoo spiralling around his arm, the billboard poster’s enticing message,”It’s not what it seems”, beautiful notes floating up from a violinist busking, a flock of pigeons taking flight, red and white football shirts en masse gathering in the square…and so on. All in the space of a few minutes.

Our mind receives literally millions of stimuli on a daily basis, a constant bombardment of information which the brain continues to accumulate, store, and process. All the while it is also moving backwards and forwards between past experiences and future dreams or projections, imagined or real scenarios flitting on and off, around and in and amongst all the other zillions of sights, sounds, tastes and sensations.

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Accomplished author and veteran Yoga teacher Donna Farhi compares the “hurricane-like” velocity of the mind to attempting to follow a film played at high-speed. And, as she elaborates, whilst it is impossible to stop its movement, we can slow down the film frame by frame, so that we begin to distinguish one moment, thought or feeling at a time. Gaining perspective by raising our awareness of our breath.

Barcelona Yoga Conference fans may have already attended one of the pre or post-conference sessions. In 2013 experienced yoga teacher and anatomist Leslie Kaminoff spoke to us at length about the simple and yet complex phenomenon of our breath.

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So how do we breathe at any given time? When we are not on the yoga mat, how does our breath change? What happens when we are concentrating? Eating? Laughing? Speaking?

A huge discovery for me was just how important the diaphragm is for the health of all our organs. Allowing this huge smooth dome-shaped muscle to move freely is absolutely vital for the well-being of all the body’s organs, not just the respiratory ones. The kingpin of breathing, the diaphragm works tirelessly throughout our lives to keep the air moving in and out of the body. Native American Indians referred to the diaphragm as the ‘horizon between heaven and earth’, separating the heart and brain from the digestive and sexual organs. When the diaphragm can move up and down freely, all the organs are massaged and bathed in fresh blood, fluid and oxygen, stimulating them to work better and affecting our entire sense of well-being.

It is truly fascinating to learn how this one little piece of the gigantic jigsaw puzzle of the human body has such vital importance to the whole. Whilst a flat, toned abdomen is a prized asset in today’s society, excessive tightness in this area (or holding the belly in) can be counter-productive to the smooth movement of the diaphragm, thus restricting blood flow to the organs, and forcing the upper body to work harder to compensate for its diminished movement; not only ineffective but exhausting.

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I like to remember the smooth, soft, round belly of a baby, which is relaxed and free. Breathing in and out, when life starts to fast-forward, I come back to the snapshots. A practice of being with what is arising one frame at a time, belly soft, breath by breath.

At this year’s Barcelona Yoga Conference there are once again an incredible line-up of teachers and events before and after the main conference, a wonderful opportunity to delve deeper into one or another aspect of yoga (Ashtanga, Acroyoga, Jivamukti, Therapeutic Yoga, Thai Massage and even Raw Food!). Check out the programme for more details.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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