Our spine should move like a string of pearls. This is not in conflict with traditional therapeutic exercise for postural alignment. On the contrary, it involves movement outside of the context of maintaining an “upright posture. ” Life is so dynamic, and our movement capability reflects this.
In Chek's metaphor, the shipmates busy themselves with appropriate tension on the cables and ropes to secure the mast – both the small segmental stabilizers and the large movers.
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Without a correct timing of the inner and outer muscular units or by overuse/hypertension of one direction of cables, the mast's alignment is disrupted. Smooth sailing becomes impossible. However, the metaphor falls short in addressing that in our body the mast, our spine, moves, bends, and twists and, ultimately, behaves like a string of pearls. Being able to expand and collapse the sails when moving, bending, and twisting while effectively stabilizing the mast is our goal in yoga.
We must rewire our unit firing so that we move from inner to outer. We can do this through our breathing, but we must do so in a context specific developmental pattern. If we take the natural firing sequence and augment it, we powerfully integrate our breathing, movement, and structure in all our activities all the time. This is the key to flow state and the precursor to understanding the Breath Mastery Scale.
How we breathe depends upon what we have stored within our body. We often cannot merely choose our breathing in our yoga. Usually, we discover an issue and it causes us to gasp and hold our breath. Other times we inhale sharply and attempt to push through, grunting with force. To avoid this fear or force takes daily, consistent practice. We need the courage to face the emotional and psychological challenges the act of entering a pose or movement presents. We need the discipline to breathe through that which frightens or frustrates us.
Often we think that we can just adopt a certain breath pattern and master a pose or movement. However, as soon as we encounter something worthwhile, something substantial within us, blocking our energies, binding our flow, the stress causes us to drop to fear- or forcelevel breathing.
For instance, if we begin with Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, we usually need to begin by actively exhaling on the effort of pushing our hips forward because of the strength challenge it presents and the surrender challenge it demands. Over time of practice, after residual tension, density, and fear-reactivity release, the pose becomes less challenging. We then find that we can inhale and lift our solar plexus toward the ceiling as the restrictions around our rib cage release and allow our lungs to fully inflate. The same is true if our strength adapts and progresses to moving through poses. This adaptation and incremental progression process is the central premise of breath mastery through vinyasa. There is a step by step process to becoming more masterful in and through all of our poses. The more poses and transitional movement in which we become more masterful, the more transferable that base level of mastery becomes into all of life. From the following scale, we can gauge our level of mastery in a particular pose or transitional movement by how we breathe.