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Week 4: Body Progression & Breathing

‘Coming into an easy seated pose’, being the first instruction for meditation, has caused a little personal phobia for me over the past 3 weeks for the following reasons.
1. Adjustment of body posture and alignment is hard work
When seated in meditation, my objective is to work on my body posture and alignment to improve my scoliosis condition. As this is the beginning of a long, painful journey of developing the required muscles to effect the transformation of my spine, my back muscles have been aching so much from just sitting and holding the right posture for the whole duration of meditation. And all the aching didn’t feel like it was worth it, because I was technically ‘doing nothing’ and the effect is also not immediately noticeable. It was also very discouraging when people asked what I did in YTT that resulted in the aching, while my answer to them is ‘Everything’, my honest answer to myself is ‘Just sitting :(‘.
2. Inability to do full inhalations
Inhaling and exhaling for equal durations makes me feel breathless. I often feel that I have already reached my maximum capacity and I’m struggling to breathe in more, but the duration just could not match up to that of my exhalation.

On hindsight, breathing has indeed been a constant issue to me across multiple disciplines in my life. As a competitive swimmer from young, each breath was always short and quick; just enough to fill my lungs and hold out for the next few quick strokes. It seems probable that I ‘learnt’ that my maximum breathing capacity is limited to my lungs from this very sport I have picked up since childhood.

As a cross-country runner in secondary school and JC, my running coach used to tell me that my breaths are too shallow and fast paced. The correct breathing technique for running should be to inhale using the diaphragm at a 2:1 duration ratio, with the inhalations taking 2 strides and the exhalation taking just 1. I never could figure out how to breathe into the diaphragm.

Frequently in pole dancing, I would also tend to hold my breath unknowingly because nailing the tricks would always be my priority. Little did I think about the fact that without breathing properly, my muscles would not be able to last as long nor perform at their optimal levels.

I went for a singing class once and even then, the instructor had pointed out that I did not breathe in using my diaphragm and therefore found it difficult to hold and control long notes.

During meditation this 4th YTT weekend, I noticed that I was able to find the adjusted posture much more easily and hold it without fidgeting as much. Jessica also commented that my right shoulder was raised significantly less. My back muscles ached less as well.

I attribute this progression to my conscious effort over the weeks on and off the mat. Because I realised that what was going to really make a difference was not just that few hours on the mat during YTT classes, but was instead the awareness of what my body is doing at any one time and the conscious effort of the minute adjustments in my daily life (eg. sitting habits, standing postures, the way I exert strength when I pole, etc). All these may seem like little things, but they add up significantly and are often underestimated.

I was also finally able to take proper full breaths, and could actually feel my diaphragm being filled up. Inhalation duration has lengthened significantly and even exceeded my exhalation duration when I do focus on my breathing, and I was able to maintain a steady inhalation for a full ‘Omm’ in the soundtrack that is played during meditation.

Experiencing these 2 improvements in my body greatly encouraged and motivated me. Onwards to more personal progress and breakthroughs, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they are, or how different they may be from others’.

200 Hour YTT Feb-May’21