Breathe, Feel, Soften, Strengthen.
If your injury or illness is long standing, if you feel frustrated or agitated that you are just not improving as quickly as you want to be, or if your pain is nagging, annoying, and “always there,” consider the following 4 words: breathe, feel, soften, strengthen.
You can use these words whenever you are following your therapeutic exercise or yoga program. They will help give you greater gains.
Breathe: Close your eyes and become aware of your breath — notice your inhale and exhale. Notice how your breath feels, how it moves. The trick here is not to change what you notice, but rather to become aware of what is already there.
Feel: Next, notice how you feel — physically, emotionally, mentally, soulfully. Where do you feel at ease, where do you feel your breath? How was your day with you, how were you with your day?
Soften: Allow yourself to relax, to settle. This phase can be challenging, particularly if you have any bit of ambition, drive, or “type A-ness” within you. You’ll feel as if you are going slower, that you are doing nothing, and you’ll want to speed up.
Stop. Wait. Breathe.
Softening is necessary for finding ease. It enables tight muscles to release, which provides a great foundation for building strength.
(Remember that if you strengthen on top of tension or tightness, you’ll gain a false sense of stability. You will have gained strength, but without resolving the underlying tension or tightness, and it won’t be long until you re-injure yourself.)
So allow yourself to “let go.” Allow yourself to be at ease. You’ll get much further much faster.
Strengthen: It is now time to strengthen this place of ease, the place cultivated from becoming aware of your breathing, of feeling, and of softening. By strengthening a place of ease, you gain resilience, you develop a deep sense of physical stamina, and you create a reservoir of calm energy.
Susi Hately Aldous, yoga instructor