When Ava, my manager, suggested that instead of flying in and out for my Los Angeles teaching gigs last week, we rent a car from Lake Tahoe and take a 16-day road trip through California, I thought she was crazy. That is, until she explained a) all the fun we could have, and b) all the people we'd be able to meet in person. As a yoga teacher with students all over the world, I know the precious value of creating real relationships with those with whom we share a like-minded practice.
If I had just flown in for my weekend of workshops, and not explored for the week before and after, I would not have sat down with editors and publishers, helped a woman figure out what kind of poses she could do with her cranky knees, or witnessed a stockbroker come to an epiphany about his life over dinner. I would not have visited with my friend Ariel, danced in front of a fireplace, seen Shiva Rea's video shoot, bonded with Ava, or so much more.
Ariel is a feng shui master. He has said for years that it's not enough to make space to be who you are right now; you need to create the space for who you want to become. For example, if you want a love relationship to come into your life, you'll want not only to get yourself ready for it, you also want to pull your bed away from the wall, put a nightstand there, and pour a fresh glass of water each night in anticipation of your new partner.
Energy loves a void, and when you make one in the shape of your ultimate goals, such as abundance, partnership, prosperity, love, or career success, it can start to pour in. If you're still engaged in the same habits that got you where you are now, and are keeping you there, either resisting your greatness or maintaining the status quo, then new possibilities will have a harder time taking hold.
In this way, when Ava proposed a more intensive trip, but also one that left a lot of room to create new relationships and deepen ones I've already begun, I knew it was the right move. Things happened that neither one of us planned, like an incredible meeting that could skyrocket my teaching career and help millions of people be exposed to the healing benefits of yoga and mindful wellness. Sometimes, we want one thing to come into our lives, but the way we think, see the world, and act are not aligning with that which we say we would like to attract.
In yoga, we can easily practice working with this concept. When you breathe, you don't actually pull air into your lungs. Your muscles pull the ribs apart, the diaphragm drops, the lungs open wide, and then the atmospheric pressure of the Earth pushes air in to fill the space you've created.
T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Krishnamacharya, one of the founding fathers of yoga asana, says that prana, life force, cannot be controlled. We can only make the space it requires to infuse us, and remove obstacles to its flow.
This is why in yoga class, we begin by bringing attention to the breath. If it's short, restricted, or choppy, we can be pretty certain that we are experiencing the same, on all other levels. The practice of yoga, therefore, is not to force openness, happiness, or health, but to seek out the places where we're blocked from wholeness, and do the work required to remove those blockages. In their place, we construct new riverbeds and banks, samskaras or habits, that serve us and take our prana in the directions we want it to go. Then, just like tearing down a dam, the streams and tributaries of circulation, central nervous system communication, lymph fluid, self-understanding, peace, and vitality will organically begin to irrigate your entire system, nourishing you for a lifetime from the inside out.
Core Pose: Making Space Breath
This is a simple breathing technique that will bring you back into harmony with the way the body actually breathes. Come into a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and direct your awareness to the tip of your nose. Without using the more yang Ujjayi breath (no Darth Vader here!), let the breath quietly but fully slide in as you flare your ribs wide in all directions. Note that as you inhale, the lungs fill from top to bottom. As you exhale, they empty out from everywhere at once as the ribs compress.
Listen to your body and notice the places in the side ribs, the front abdominals or around the mid and upper back where you find a jerkiness or stubbornness residing. Hold your breath in for a moment, and move in ways that help to release and resolve your resistance there. If you notice emotions or thoughts arising that cause the body or energy to contract, maintain the rhythm of your in- and out-breaths until they dissipate.
After two minutes of the making space breathing technique, you should feel a difference in the freedom and quality of your breathing, and in your body, mind, and heart.