At the beginning of each class we begin by focusing on our breath moving so deeply into the lungs that our body responds by allowing the lower abdomen to expand (as we breathe in), and contract,( as we breathe out).
This type of breathing follows the natural rhythms of the body and the movement of the diaphragm which descends on the inhale and lifts on the exhale. There are many benefits to breathing this way, on a physical level the abdominal muscles are toned and the digestive massaged by the ebb and flow of this receptive movement in the lower belly.
Secondly, the mind is drawn down into the body, out of our everyday train of thought. To be focused on the breath is to be in the present moment, we cannot breath in the future or the past. The breath is also said to be the bridge between the body and the mind, through the one pointed focus on the breath we generate a more meditative quality in our Yoga practice. Through this attention we are less likely to impose and more inclined to sense the tissues of the body and allow the Yoga postures to unfold.
Finally, breathing deeply in this way has the energetic quality of grounding – think of how you feel when walking in nature, the feeling of well being created because in that situation you are more likely to be enjoying the present moment, we sense more and think less.
Ok, so really , lastly …
In Taoism, ‘breathing into’ the energy centre in the lower abdomen, (the Lower Tantien known as The Ocean of Vitality) was a highly prized practice and was used to cultivate strength and stamina.
All this is rooted in the ancient practices of meditation and is the beginning stage in Samatha meditation.
Samatha Meditation, when literally translated from Tibetan to English means to Dwell in peacefulness, though it’s more commonly referred to as Calm abiding, and is a prelude to Vipassana or Insight meditation.