Expansion and Contraction
“The practice of yoga is the merging of all polarities already in union”. – Mark Whitwell – Yoga of Heart.
For 15 years, the core principles of my teachings have always been about expansion and contraction of body and breath in order to find a sense of freedom both from our yoga practice and in our lives.
This year has enabled me to delve deeper in to the underlying meaning of this more than ever. A few months ago, I received some completely unexpected devastating news, I felt intense hurt on the inside, not just for myself but also for the other people involved too. My hurt was not physical but a raw intense ache. Unknowingly, I processed this pain in its raw state. At first I felt such sadness, then for a while intense anger, then grief, but then after some weeks of processing, my feelings changed to compassion towards the whole situation and then there was a kind of dull pause and lull. I would like to call this one of life’s contractions and we could have all got stuck here.
A few weeks weeks later, several positive, joyful situations and events occurred, I chose to let expansion in and for it to alter my contracted mind state. A huge surge of happiness and freedom literally replaced the feeling of pain. I would like to call this one of life’s expansions.
Somehow, the two polar opposite states of being, eventually offered me a sense of balance as well as clarity and enabled me to move forward getting back in to the flow of my life. Don’t get me wrong, of the course the pain is still there, it comes and goes but its easier to bear and at the end of the day life goes on….
Life has an expanding and contracting pulsation and rhythm, it always will continue on regardless.
Expansion and contraction are manifested in every aspect of our lives and our bodies. When these two energies are in balance, the equilibrium brings us to our essential state peace, but when imbalanced we suffer because sometimes in our life we can get stuck in one polar and forget that the opposite exists….
Yoga is the union of opposites, it’s a way to line up with the the throb of life that pulses at the very core of who we are. If we move in harmony with the natural pulsation of life; if we cultivate practices that support its freedom, then we’ll find ourselves more present, more available, more spacious and more able to process contraction after expansion. Our yoga practice allows us to participate more fully with life as it enables us to cultivate the ability to sit with discomfort or contraction, knowing and believing that it will eventually be followed by a time of growth or expansion. Both of which are perfectly natural polarities of being.
I teach my yoga students that our bodies carry this same contracting and expanding rhythm of life force. For example, every time your heart beats, it contacts and expands and as long as you’re alive, this never changes. Just as inhale becomes exhale, light becomes dark, wake becomes sleep and yin becomes yang and so on – everything pulsates with contraction and expansion of opposites.
When we practice yoga, we are able to alter the reception and transmission of energy. This is because as we integrate our breath perfectly with our movement, energy is able to move and flow more healthily and freely both within us and around us. When we can tune in to the pulsation of this energy, we move closer to understanding our selves and life. This keeps our body, mind and spirit both enlivened and in balance. In other words, we are able to flow with the ups and downs of life with more grace and ease.
When I’m teaching I always encourage students to consciously breathe and really listen and observe the pulse and rhythm of their breath intently as it moves subtly through their body. Of course we are always breathing, but often we are unaware that we are not breathing fully or freely. With each breath you take, a symphony of muscular activity occurs. As you inhale, there is a natural expansion. The result is an expanded space for the lungs, other internal organs and for the breath. As you exhale, the breathing space contracts again, through a complex set of muscular actions. For smooth and effective breathing to take place, the muscles involved in the breath symphony must be fine-tuned and coordinated. When we breathe with real expansion and contraction, we learn to recognise, accept and allow the energy of all emotions to move through us. Just as you cannot breathe in forever, you cannot breathe out forever either. You must contract and then expand again.
Expansion and contraction are the in-breath and the out-breath – one cannot occur without the other and our bodies and minds literally expand contract with the breath . As living, breathing beings on this planet, we see that we are part of the greater pulsation of life itself.
What you feel in your body is what happens in every aspect of nature, whether we choose to pay attention to it or not. Everything in life has a rhythm, from the seasons, to the tides. Everything that expands also contracts. The movement of your breath, receiving and giving, rhythm and stillness, in and out, action and inertia, feminine and masculine……
You have to expand before you can contract. You must contract in order to expand. Expansion and Contraction is an ongoing rhythm that is part of our existence. Knowing this can help us to have patience during difficult times and deeply appreciate the beautiful ones.
With Love B xxx