“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Albert Einstein
I’m passionate about the pause—the pause in-between breaths and movements, in-between seasons and cycles, and in-between memories and the millions of moments that shape them. I’m passionate about the pause because it is instructional, it is healing, and because it is, in its own curious way, fun.
It’s one of the most difficult practices, to take that second for a breath, a stretch, or a word. What is more difficult, if you’re anything like me, is to find that moment in a space free of self-doubt or self-loathing. How great would it be if in these moments of mindfulness, of awareness, I could meet myself as the witness and not as the judge and jury?
The most intimidating part is just beginning, to put it simply, having the courage to start. Being comfortable enough with yourself to just be. Recognizing that all the cheesy affirmations of Stuart Smalley are true—that “I am good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me.” We’re all telling stories. What if ours just started sounding a little kinder, more forgiving, with some grace?
Being a physical therapist, I’ve always been interested in the body ; however, it took becoming a yogi to finally learn to be interested in my own body. It’s in this journey, through the physical body, that I’ve learned to connect to those deeper parts of myself, the spaces that have been dormant for way too long.
I’d like to start helping you achieve finding that place through breathing exercises. It is through these exercises that you can calm your mind, center yourself, ground yourself, and be present in the moment. There are two breathing exercises I would like to introduce to you. They are the centering breath and ocean breathing.
Centering Breath can help to bring focus and clarity. Start in a mindful seated posture, fingertips connected to the Earth. Pause for one breath of gratitude for all the diverse, rich, and worthy life that resides on this beautiful planet. Inhale, reach arms up and overhead, pause with prayer hands towards the heavens to connect with your angels, ancestors, and divine light, energy, and love. Draw prayer hands to your heart, center to pause and connect with your own breath within. In that pause, we can find gratitude for the Earth below us, the heavens above us, and the breath which unites us all.
Ocean breathing involves constricting the back of the throat to encourage lengthening each breath cycle. Keep your mouth closed, and slowly inhale through the nose with the back of the throat partially closed. Remember to pause your breath at the top of that inhale to notice. Maintain the partially restricted throat as you slowly exhale through the nose. Pause at the bottom of the exhale to notice. The breath cycle remains full, deep, slow, and controlled through the constriction of the back of the throat. Match your breath with the motion of the ocean, visualize those beautiful crystal-clear blue waves rising and falling as they dissolve over the smooth sand. Repeat often, remember the pause.
Another technique used to reach your true center is through placing your body in specific poses. The pose I want to introduce to you is the half-moon. This may be done either in a seated position, or standing.
Half-moon (chair version): Due to joint stability, strength and balance required for this pose, this pose is for intermediate to advanced practitioners. Caution needs be taken with all versions of this pose for safety.
The wall may be used for balance to support your back side. The seat of the chair should be facing you at the top of the mat. Step into a wide stance, back towards the wall and toes near the chair pointed towards the seat. Bend into the front knee as you extend your trunk over the legs reaching the bottom hand to the seat of the chair. Top arm can reach to the sky as you straighten the standing leg and lift the back leg with the knee extended.
Half-moon: If you are an advanced yogi and this pose is in your practice, let’s focus on safety and alignment with this posture. The advanced yogi will determine where the hip can allow for safe range of motion below the pelvis hinging diagonally. Focus on a neutral spine from pelvis to crown with strong core engagement. Do not sacrifice a side bend of the trunk to reach the hand closer to the earth, then we have lost the connection of the expansiveness of the pose. Any support as high as a chair or block could be used. Imagine creating the largest diameter of your moon. Think length from lifted heel to crown as well as from hand to hand, with an open heart.
It’s in the pause that I’ve learned to access that space, that I’ve learned to rediscover and reimagine my being. That I am more than a mother, wife, daughter, sister, therapist, teacher, and friend. That when all the layers of my identity get peeled away, there is still that part of me that’s left. Finding that is my passion. Helping you find it is my purpose and mission.
It’s out there in the field, in the pause, in the space of the in-between. I’ll meet you there.
By, Meghan Nelson, a licensed physical therapist and professional yoga therapist with a passion for using yoga as medicine for optimal health, injury prevention, and overall health and wellness. Meghan is co-owner of Lumin Therapy, which provides integrative healing of the mind, body, and spirit through the practice of physical therapy, medical therapeutic yoga, and mindfulness.