Is a pulling in of the muscles and mind to the core centers of the body and an expansion out in all directions. In each pose we should strive to have every muscle activated equally together, all at once, while also relaxed and without effort. Think of the body as one big muscle pulling ourselves into the alignment of the pose. Here we can feel and strengthen the core and inner spirals of the body, connecting our bodies to the mind and breath. Then we expand the mind outward and inward to the infinite universe.
First to keep in mind are the Bandhas. The Mula at the perineum, Uddiyana at the lower belly and the Jalandhara at the front of the neck; these performed together make the Maha Bandha. Bandha; meaning “lock” is a locking of the core and the energy centers. It is mostly considered an energy lock, holding in of Prana (Chi). What we are doing here with the Bandhas is not only strengthening our bodies to the core but using them to guide us into perfect alignment of the pose and ourselves from the core out. We should seek to keep these, more active than locked throughout your whole class or sequence practice; although you can squeeze them intensely to build greater strength, depending on the pose.
The inner spirals are the lines along the body that we can feel activating as we engage all the muscle together in proper alignment. For example, in mountain pose we are pulling up from the arches of the feet rotating the shins in, pushing the thighs outward, bringing the front of the pelvic bones and then moving the energy up through the perineum towards the base of the skull.
When relaxing, don’t collapse out of the pose, continue to hold the pose or depending on the pose continue reaching and relax into it. Once we are able to hold every muscle of the pose strongly and without strain we are able to relax into it even more and hold it longer and/or move deeper into the pose. Then from here we are creating stamina and physical power by connecting every muscle together to the centers of the body. You see as the muscles work together, they all don’t have to work so hard. They work more efficiently. Now that’s team work! An after effect of this would be a more naturally strong and aligned body when relaxed, such as a standing pose or life in general.
As for breathing, the “in” breath is the empty breath, as I like to call it. This is where we bring in energy and hold our position and the energy we have already brought in. Here we draw from all directions or through a single or many limbs to the Bandhas.
The “out” breath is the solid breath, where we push the energy into the body and condense it down using the muscles and mind. So as we exhale we can either: exhale through a single limb, many limbs, expand out in all directions or create strength by squeezing the muscles more; little by little as we breathe. As with any of these we must remain relaxed or use the exhale to relax more, into the stretch and into the strengthen.
On an energetic note, with the Bandhas locked, linking the breath to the expansion and contraction of the body and mind we are able to store Prana (chi). And to help with visualization we can color the Prana.
Whatever pose it is you are in, feel the wholeness and find the balance of the body and then hold onto it. Use your Bandhas and spine as a guide as a guide, locking your Bandhas and hugging the spine. And as you move the breath through the body, seek to feel it. Sometimes we may not be able to engage all the muscles at once or when we do we get shaking, don’t worry, just continue to reach for the center, engage and strengthen.