The “wave breath” is a further exploration of how breathing as a mindfulness practice can insight awareness and change how we use the body. In this case we are guiding the breath to facilitate the natural wave it creates in the spine from extension, or arching on each inhale to flexion or curling on each exhale. These movements are subtle, and yet when we work with them they help us find ease in the basic rhythm of breathing. The wave breath is also a component of yoga’s Dirgha Pranayama, or the “complete breath” that takes us from the bottom up to the top and down again.
When to use this: Right before meditation or as a warm-up to any workout or activity (I have a friend who uses it while cycling and calls it a miracle!). I like to do it sitting upright or standing.
Why do this: The wave breath is a beautiful way to experience the ebb and flow of the breath in and out of the body and to feel what the spine naturally does in response. It’s also an opportunity to experience the complete breath from the bottom up and in all directions – like the aforementioned Dirgha Pranayama.
- How to begin: Begin by exploring your breath in the front, sides and back of the body, feeling as if you were increasing your circumference equally in all directions (three-dimensional breath). Repeat with every breath. Repeat this 4-5 times.
- Feel your breath move into the bottom third of your torso as if you were breathing in from your tailbone and pubic bone and filling up your lower abdomen in all directions. Notice how your sitz bones widen and your lower back begins to slightly arch. Repeat 4-5 times.
- Bring your breath up from the bottom once again but expand it upward into the middle third of your trunk. Feel the breath expanding into the belly, sides of the waste and into the middle back. Continue to allow extension into the thoracic spine. Repeat this 4-5 times. Each time you exhale let the breath out easily.
- Bring your breath into the upper third of the trunk feeling the heart rise, the chest and throat open, and the chin lift slightly. The spine is gently but fully extended.
- Allow the breath to empty from the top down, feeling the spine subtly descend into flexion: eyes gaze down, chin drops, chest softens, ribs drop back, low back lengthens and sitz bones slightly narrow. Repeat as many times as feels good.
How to use throughout your practice/activity: I use this breath practice to find a balance of effort and ease in all directions in the body no matter what the postural position or exercise. Working specifically with the wave breath also teaching the body how to allow arching and curling of the spine to be motivated by the breath rather than from effort alone.
To hear an audio recording of Chantill’s meditations, click here.