The following is an excerpt from our Air module of The Path. Join and download the rest of The Journal here.
It is the breath that causes the chest to rise and fall and the breath that creates sound as it moves through the throat. But even beyond the physical sense, when breath flows through these areas, it is more than just the body that’s inspired. On an energetic level, these are also known as the heart and throat chakras, and air is the element of both.
The purpose of the heart chakra is simply to love and feel love. And it’s this love and acceptance that serves as the foundation for the throat chakra, which is all about communication, creativity, and finding one’s own voice.
Love is a life force as essential as breathing. Unfortunately, like air, not all love is healthy. There is love that is restricted, smothering, or punishing; love used to manipulate or control. In other words, love that is polluted and, therefore, difficult to trust.
But also, we live in a culture that seems to be turning more and more quickly toward violence. It can feel almost too dangerous to put yourself out there. The threat of being ostracized, criticized, or shamed is real. I know I feel it. It doesn’t always stop me from opening myself up. But also, sometimes, it does.
In any case, it’s no wonder so many of us struggle with backbends, the physical act of laying bare our chest and throat. It’s not that our hearts aren’t open, as some yoga teachers seem to imply.
For I’ve yet to meet someone with a heart truly closed. And yet, I meet many who come to the mat already wounded and afraid of being hurt. Their hearts ARE open. They just need to know they are in good hands and that, as teachers, we have their back.
Because let’s face it, it’s scary to feel vulnerable and exposed, no matter who you are. And why opening ourselves up takes such courage. Intimacy takes courage. Feeling takes courage. Allowing ourselves to be seen and be heard takes courage. But also something we can practice. Practice that begins with the breath.
Shedding the armor that many of us come with begins with the simple act of breathing. Learning how to breathe fully, exercising and expanding all the muscles in and around the chest, and feeling all the sensations that come with such aliveness and freedom. It begins with listening to the sound of our breath, the whisper of an exhale, and the sound of our voice, sometimes joined together with others.
Breath is the meeting place between body and soul, leading us into the heart and guiding us from that same space. For breath is love. And love is breath — the air that joins us together.