Glory glory. We are works of art. I often forget the lung tissue continues above the clavicles. At the top of your inhales, try to feel the breath up behind your collar bones without tensing in the chest.
Breath is an autonomic function but, with practice, we can harness it’s power to change our energy levels, calm our minds, increase the capacity of our lungs, bring more oxygen supply to the body, & fortify our organs. It often takes a backseat to asana but I believe it should be front and center. I resisted learning it at first because it wasn’t as sensational as learning handstands and wild poses. I was wrong. It’s powerful and life changing. Try it.
Inhalation engulfs the whole body, expanding from center to periphery. During exhalation, the tide recedes drawing back toward the center. The in-breath is a movement toward the peripheral consciousness; the out-breath moves into the core of consciousness. ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
I like to talk about breathing. Here is a video of me doing just that.
But what does this MEAN?! Well, it’s usually a sign that your spine is being compromised (i.e. you’re hunched forward or compressing the vertebrae) which is preventing you from fully breathing. Solution: soften by coming out of the pose a little so you can lengthen through the spine. Here are some pics to illustrate in low lunge:
This is tough, I know! I like to push myself and I think that by going deeper I am getting a more rigorous and meaningful physical yoga practice. But, no! This forceful approach will only lead to injury. This is a great way to protect your body but it’s also a lesson in softening and surrendering. :)
In other news, my mirror is crooked (see 3rd pic). I have since straightened it out.
So, here’s my solution, when holding the leg out to the side (Uttitha hasta B as shown in photo below) feel a long standing leg, extended spine (so you can breath!) and square hips & shoulders; this probably means your leg will come forward a bit. The amount you open the hip depends on much more than flexibility alone. Your BONES and JOINTS (more info here) ultimately dictate how much you bring your leg out to the side. YES! You can gently open up the hips with time but please take into account your natural hip rotation and honor it. This is Ahimsa and Satya at it’s finest! Non-violence and truth to yourself. Fist bumps all around!
For an easy way to see how much external rotation your hip socket will naturally allow, try this: cross the right ankle over the left knee and let the knee fall open to the side. This angle will show you how far to the side you should open the leg.