As yogis, we feel practical magic in asanas. We root down through a leg more, and suddenly we can breathe more easily; we broaden across the collar bones and somehow we can see more clearly. We create the external form of a pose, engage our muscles and breathe… but what is happening internally to make us feel so good?
In a word: release. There are fibrous adhesions throughout our interior cavities, sticky connections between the bones, muscles, fascia, organs, vessels, and glands, that can limit our inner freedom. When bound by adhesions, we experience heightened reactivity to stress. These adhesions come from our posture, diet, emotional stress, trauma, environmental toxins, and habits of movement. They are constantly in flux and flow– being created by and creating our experiences. And it is this, their fluid nature, that makes them so amenable to release in hatha yoga.
The shape of our bones creates structural scaffolding, a system of levers we can arrange at will. When we arrange our bones in asanas, organic movement of muscles, fascia, breath, and various pulses flows through and around our bones, mechanically gliding the inner organs, and adjusting the function of our glands. In even the simplest of yoga poses, we can move ourselves in new paths, and direct physical forces into adhesions to unbind unnecessary tension.
Let’s consider one common sticky place: the fibers around the top of the ribcage and the base of the neck. There are suspensory ligaments here that run from the lung cavities to the neck bones, and often when we take a shallow breath, as we might when reading on our laptop or phone, these fibers remain bound together, untouched by the breath, and our inner organs don’t move as much as they could.
Notice the position of your body right now. Make any adjustments you need to in order to find your longest spine. Stack your leg bones well; place your collarbones, shoulder blades, and upper arm bones consciously. Give more of your weight to your foundation, and breathe. Can you allow the ribcage to move with your breath, as the diaphragm drops down on the inhale, and rises on the exhale? Now, the movement of the ribs begins to release deep neck adhesions. During a diaphragmatic inhale, the lungs slide down via leverage of the bottom ribs, unlocking suspended tension in our throats.
Every time we take a diaphragmatic breath in a well-aligned body, as hatha yoga encourages us to do, we create new movement possibilities at our centers of vitality– around the pelvic and abdominal organs, lungs, heart, throat, upper palate, sense organs, brain and spinal cord. We decompress our joints, inviting nutrients to thirsty tissues. We relax the tunnels of digestion and respiration, improving nervous impulse and blood flow. We massage the adrenals, thyroid, lymph, and pituitary glands into optimal endocrine function.
Through hatha yoga, potential energy is liberated from the adhesions binding our interior cavities, and we unfurl the fibers of our being. There’s healing power in the release, and it radiates out from our deepest selves.