In my work as a yoga teacher and movement therapist, I’ve noticed that considerable stress for some individuals arises in their ‘transitions’. By transitions, I mean how they go from one place to another, one task to the next. It was as if they wanted to ‘apparate’ themselves – Harry Potter style – immediately to the next place.
I suggest to these clients they pay especial attention to their breath and how they move when making transitions. It doesn’t mean the process has to take longer or that the movement has to be slow – it’s perfectly possible to run and be mindful at the same time.
I personally find that just saying to myself “I am in a transition” helps me become more mindful. A common transition for me is going from a task on the computer to teaching a class, or from one class to the next. I need to take some care over the shift of attention – for my own well-being as well as for that of my students.
Some transitions are more obviously stressful – big life changes such as moving house, getting married, becoming a parent, getting divorced. If we’ve practised mindfulness in the small transitions, then the bigger ones might be less of a challenge.
The seasons are also a transition. At the moment we’re still in the midst of Winter but in a couple of months the transition towards Spring will begin. During the Winter we have to accustom ourselves to shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures. Practitioners of both Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda would suggest the diet in winter be warm and substantial – no salads. As we transition into Spring we can begin to eat lighter foods.
A few weeks ago I had dinner with my parents in a local restaurant – The Claret, Montpellier, Harrogate. The food is fabulous and on occasion there’s the added bonus of a virtuoso performance by restaurant owner and opera singer – D’Arcy Bleiker. After a magnificent rendition of the Toreador piece from Carmen, D’Arcy went immediately back to the business of running the restaurant.
I asked him how he managed this transition? He was soon telling us about his training as a child chorister and how he’d learned to breathe from the belly and the diaphragm to create glorious sound. He explained that if the breath was all in the upper chest then the voice would have no resonance or power. There was definitely no lack of power in D’Arcy’s voice – we wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been heard all the way up the hill in Betty’s! It’s seems likely to me that D’Arcy’s skilful use of the breath supports the transitions he has to make, thus he can avoid becoming depleted in a very busy lifestyle.
It’s useful to bring more awareness to transitions in the practice of yoga. On one of her teacher trainings Donna Farhi said “how students get into a pose and how they come out of it, is as important, if not more so, than the asana itself.” These transitions into and out of a pose are managed best when supported by the breath. And the breath itself consists of a series of transitions – from inhalation to exhalation, from exhalation to inhalation. If we focus on the moments of transition – the pauses between each breath – these in turn become timeless, places of spacious bliss.
As Sandra Sabatini in Breath the Essence of Yoga says:
‘Learn to love the pause…..
….explore both pauses
there is no apprehension
there is no tightening
there is no hurry
but everything within the body becomes very very quiet
after the breath has entered
and just before the going out
after the breath has left
and just before the coming in