A dawn spent milling in the early morning happiness of the crowds drawn to celebrate first light, brushing all souls present with bursts of colour pouring into song and dance, soft eyes and gratitude. An Oxford tradition; Magdalen bridge on the first day of May, lifting curtains in bodies that had almost sunk into mourning with the sheer longitude of the cold wet winter days. As in legend it felt at last a prince or princess dressed in vibrant green walked in our midst.
This soft regal sense of friend greets us every time we receive the gift of a breath. In the majority of traditions breath is a wind carrying to us the scent and colour of our origination in the deep interior. Nothing is more constant or intimate in our experience of ourselves than our own breath. It is beautifully arranged, essential and completely accessible. When we grant ourselves the time to trace its subtle course in our own forms, it makes us aware not only of the essential quality of life that it endows but also illuminates the landscape through which it passes. When the body lightens to follow the sensation of being breathed, breath has something of the quality of light. We live in a culture where light is associated with vision, and our idea of vision is often of something that divides, assesses and lists. Whereas the illuminative quality of breath offers an experience where everything is lit up uniquely rather than separately. It is bedded in the freedom found in loosening rather than tightening. It’s energy easily engenders gratitude and gratitude engenders happiness.
Pranayama or breath practice offers a simple toolkit for deepening this consciousness of our own breath. Popular ideas of pranayama often include a lot of huffing and puffing and hard work, an idea of breath work, which is achievement based and goes against the grain. Breath freedom is really simple, and a real soul practise. Following the subtleties of our own breath in different ways slowly builds the capacity and the desire to embody its quality of illumination that can be felt in a profoundly embodied way throughout the physical structure and our deeper layers.
I am really enjoying sharing this way of being. One of the really good things about being a yoga teacher is that the teacher has to practice to offer a practice. It keeps us honest! Consequently by necessity I am spending more time with breath practice and I love what happens through it. So thank you all that come to the pranayama and meditation class on a Wednesday evening after yoga. Your presence offers me a gift. I hope it does the same for you. Breath work asks for a degree of constancy and quite a bit of repetition to be effective. But it is really worth it. And it leads us into meditation in a way that I find rather remarkable. I have deliberately made the cost of this class modest to encourage this gift. And like all good gifts we can at some point pass it on to each other. Tonight is the last pranayama practise for three weeks. It will start again on the Wednesday the 30th of May for most of the summer. The more of us involved the better the energy.
Next Wednesday the 9th of May I am offering Kirtan in place of this breath class. Please come and join in and explore the inner voice. You can find a description at https://www.derekelliottyoga.co.uk/kirtan/ .
After this I plan to move the Kirtan to a different venue on a Friday evening once a month so it doesn’t clash with the breath practice. The Community Centre is not available then, so if anyone has a bright idea as to a venue, then please drop me a line.
With much love,