The thread between asana and breath is that they are different ways to feel and control the qi and move us towards an awareness of our subtler dimensions. As we get more comfortable with the feeling of energy flooding our body in a physical practice and we clear blockages and stagnation, we prepare for the deeper shifts that occur with the breath.
Layer upon layer we explore ourselves from slow moving dense physical particles to hyperspeed light…and beyond.
“The thread that runs through all of yoga is qi - if you think about what is fasting, asana practice, meditation and breathing, what do these things have in common? It’s qi.” Paul Grilley
Qi is the essential animating life force identified by the East - it is known by its synonyms prana and ki. When qi leaves the body we become nothing more than a slowly dissolving pile of chemicals - death is the absence of qi.
Qi is both a form of movement and physically effective. It is everything and everywhere. It is what we are and what moves us. From a cellular level to a macro, universal level. Qi manifests in different ways in different dimensions - for example, on the astral plane it’s known as psi. But that’s a chat for anther day.
Yoga is teaching us to control our qi. Asana is harmonising our qi, pranayama is harnessing our qi.
Patanjali outlines the slow process to us getting more control over our qi, and this process is elaborated upon across the centuries - from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika to Iyengar’s Light on Yoga.
We learn to control ourselves, from our behaviours and interactions to our movements and breath, to our thoughts, arguably the hardest thing of all to control!
Paul uses the analogy of animals and infants/children; they cannot control their impulses, they move all the time (or sleep!). It takes discipline to hold your body still. Every thought and emotion conceives to drive us to move our bodies and to resist that is a superhuman effort. Go hang out with a bunch of toddlers if you want to see this for yourself. Exhausting! By learning to conserve that qi and channel it towards our own betterment, Yoga offers us the scientific method by which we can apply ourselves to transform.