This month, we invite you to connect with the intention of expansion: being expansive or experiencing expansiveness as a way to connect to our highest self through greater consciousness. When we are curious and open, we find spiritual growth, which leads to more happiness and joy in our lives.
All of this sounds great - but how can we explore this in our practice and daily lives in a practical and grounded way? As a student of Yoga and Ayurveda, I’m always interested in applying these ancient wisdom traditions to our modern and fast-paced lives in practical ways.
Using these tools, we have the opportunity to experience expansion in our physical body, our breath/energy body, and in our mind-body. I’d like to share a deeper look at the different ways we can connect to our more expansive selves.
###Expanding the Physical Body
We can explore a sense of expansion in our asana practice by focusing on our arms and legs. Standing poses where we move our arms and legs in different directions are perfect for this - think of all of the warrior poses as well as half-moon pose. While in these postures, imagine you are radiating energy out from your arms, fingers, legs, and toes, expanding beyond the physical body.
###Expanding the Breath Body
When we practice Pranayama, we are actually continuously experiencing expansion in the breath body without any added effort. In every breath cycle, we have an inhale where the ribcage and lungs expand, naturally followed by an exhale where they contract. Sitting still and observing the breath’s expansion and contraction brings awareness to the never-ending ebb and flow of our breaths, which extends to our lives. Each breath represents this duality.
In order to increase the sense of expansion in the breath body, take a moment to sit and focus on the breath. Fill up your lungs and feel the outwards movement of the side ribs to the side body (like a harmonium). Hold your breath for as long as comfortable and then let go of the breath with your exhale.
Focused ribcage breathing using the diaphragm will increase your lung capacity and improve your posture and energy levels. Better breath patterns will lead to more prana (life force energy) in our bodies increasing our overall health and wellbeing.
###Expanding the Mind-Body
Our mind-body, or our thoughts, can be all over the place. It's normal to not feel expansive, open, and curious at all times. As we navigate through our lives, we experience suffering, loneliness, anxiety, and other states that feel contracted and small.
We first need to accept this as simply part of life. Most of the time, our state of mind is just that, a stage, and it will pass eventually. It also helps to be aware that we are part of something bigger, that we are all connected. We are all made of the same elements - you can take inspiration from Ayurveda’s 5-element theory.
All of life, literally everything, is made of the same elements: earth, fire, water, air, and space. We are all the same and therefore connected. When you are feeling low and small, go for a walk in nature and take this realization with you as you look around.
I hope these practices will help you connect with your most expansive self this month.