BREATHING through the WHOLE BODY

Updated: May 25

WILL JOHNSON



Here I share some of the words that have enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of Yoga practice and myself.


This extract is from the book, Breathing Through The Whole Body by Will Johnson. It is primarily directed to meditators, but can just as easily be applied to the physical practice.






“The opening dimension of being (sunyata) that Mahayana Buddhism promotes as such an important value is the polar opposite of the closed fist of the contraction. For body and mind to open, the tendency to contract needs to be offset by a gesture of letting go, releasing whatever you’re holding so tightly to yourself, transforming imploding compression into a relaxation that keeps radiating outward. Exploring the possibilities of a breath that can be felt to breathe through the whole body lets you start opening up, coming out of your hardshell, emerging from the shadows cast by contraction’s mass".

“Feel how the breath calms and heals the body"

We all have contraction at the core of our being, right in the centre of our body and mind. This contraction makes us who we are, but it also limits us from becoming all that we are. And it hurts. Like a tightened fist, it keeps the life force that wants to pass freely through our body and mind held back and restrained. Its primary tendencies are to compress the energy of the body, like a black hole drawing everything toward its centre, and to tether the activity of the mind to the dimension of thought. Every time we tense the body in reaction, we add to the contraction, like a beaver adding another twig to a dam. Every moment we relax, the contraction comes undone a bit.


Tension and stillness in the body feed the contraction, and its appetite is large. In whatever shape or pattern in you (we all have unique ways in which we hold tension in our body), the contraction can always be felt to interfere with the free flow of breath. Built of residual patterns of tension and holding, it is the confining force behind all the still places in your body that don’t move as you breathe.


Exploring the koan* of breathing through the whole body in the context of sitting meditation helps soften the contraction. Gradually, breath by surrendered breath, it can start releasing its hold, loosening its grip, revealing at the level of both body and mind, what it has been holding back all this time. Breath by breath, areas of the body that don’t move start moving again. Breath by breath, tensions in the body start relaxing. A muscle in chronic tension keeps firing unending signals of contraction in very rapid frequencies. as the tension relaxes and releases, the body becomes calmer, and less agitated.


Calming the body of its tension helps heal the body of its pain. As breath starts breathing through more and more of the body, it becomes a direct agent of healing, massaging and helping to melt any areas of tension it touches into and moves through. In the same way that a bodyworker’s hands are able to touch you from the outside in, a breath that keeps the body in unending motion massages you from the inside out, breath by breath, stroke by stroke. You feel it working on you internally, probing into areas and recesses of tissues that the bodyworker can’t put her hands on. Everywhere the breath penetrates, every place it touches and presses into, it activates sensations and promotes the release of tension. like a current in a river, confronting a logjam, the force of breath pushes up against the tension’s walls in hope of dissolving its barriers, turning tension in the body into a shimmer, and contraction in the mind back to presence.


The opening dimension of being (sunyata) that Mahayana Buddhism promotes as such an important value is the polar opposite of the closed fist of the contraction. For body and mind to open, the tendency to contract needs to be offset by a gesture of letting go, releasing whatever you’re holding so tightly to yourself, transforming imploding compression into a relaxation that keeps radiating outward. Exploring the possibilities of a breath that can be felt to breathe through the whole body lets you start opening up, coming out of your hardshell, emerging from the shadows cast by contraction’s mass.s agitated.


*Koan (in Zen Buddhism): a problem that admits no logical solution.


THERE ARE FURTHER RESOURCES HERE TO HELP YOU DEEPEN YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE





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