Part 7 concludes Gert van Leeuwen’s anatomy section in Yoga Magazine: the feeling of relaxation and space that you experience when your stomach and chest area are in balance. Your breathing provides the connection between these two important points.
My colleague Esther Nijdam from Friesland says that the temptation to simply keep going on busy days is huge. I can relate to this. When she rolled out her yoga mat and did a few breathing exercises, she noticed how restless she felt. A flood of thoughts goes through your mind in moments such as these. And because of this, Esther started to feel the tension that unconsciously had been building up in her eyes, shoulders, pelvis, and breathing. As soon as she calmed down, her posture improved and rewarded her with a sense of inner peace and space. Through breathing you can spread relaxation and space through your entire body. Gert van Leeuwen explains how this works.
Your body has two emotional centers. They correspond with your body’s gravity points. The first center is in your abdomen. This is your body’s central gravity point. The second is located at the bottom of your sternum, the heart region. This center corresponds with the gravity point of your spinal column. The abdominal area represents relaxation: an experience that arises through breathing, from within. We need muscle activity (from the transverse abdominal muscle) to properly regulate breathing. The feeling of relaxation that comes from your stomach is therefore different from what you experience when relaxing after a long day, which usually ends in sleep.
Everyone ties their own meaning to the word relaxation. A person who leads an active, stress-filled life will give a very different meaning compared to someone who leads a calm life. But if we connect the feeling of being relaxed to a certain coordination of abdominal breathing, the experience becomes the same for everyone and relaxation, or the absence thereof, becomes measurable.
The second gravity point represents space and lightness. The chest area is active when we relate to, or come into contact with, our environment. We can harden ourselves in space, as military poses show, with our chests out. Or we can, for example, withdraw from space by letting our shoulders hang, with a sunken chest. The first pose looks ambitious, the second bleak and depressed. Your gravity point is relaxed when your upper back is straight and your sternum is relaxed. Through breathing, you will then also experience the feeling of space. When your chest and abdomen are in balance with each other, your yoga exercises are guided by feelings of relaxation and space. If you practice this on the mat, you also learn how to apply it in daily circumstances.
Because experiencing relaxation and space in your body is an important aspect in yoga, we pay a lot of attention to the connection between these two gravity points in our classes.
Are you interested in yoga and would you like to experience the benefits of yoga yourself? You can! Sign up for a trial class at Yoga Ommen and discover what yoga can do for you! The exercises are easy to learn and (with a bit of practice) can also be done at home.
Gert van Leeuwen is the founder of the Critical Alignment Yoga and Therapy Institute. Irene Vos was trained by this institute as a Critical Alignment Yoga teacher and a Critical Alignment Yoga therapist.