The heart and lungs have an intimate relationship, physiologically and in myth and metaphor. Anatomically the heart and lungs share space in our thoracic cavity. As we breathe, they dance in partnership making room for one another to function. There is a necessary shape-change in our thoracic cavity with each breath. I’d like to share a practice inspired by this intimate dance between our heart and lungs through the coming week of Valentines Day.
Whether walking down the street, just waking up, working out, or practicing yoga, I’ve been tuning into this coordination with the rhythm of each part of your breath. I invite you to feel into this coordinated breath and movement rhythm:
Feel your lungs wrapping around and enveloping your heart.
Snuggle your heart into your lungs.
As you exhale:
Feel the lungs open its hold around your heart, falling away and back behind the heart.
Inhale – hug your heart with your lungs.
Exhale – expand your heart forward with the support of your lungs falling behind your heart.
Try this as a mantra, in movement and in words, as a symbol of the way you can relate to your heart and to your lungs.
The rhythmic coordination I am trying with my inhalation and my exhalation is the opposite in this experimental practice from the typical coordination in a Yoga Asana practice. It can feel awkward at first. I find it is bringing me into connection with my inner organs and the layers of tissues throughout my entire trunk. I am beginning a new relationship, a re-connection, to my body. It is changing my posture and the distribution of mass and volume of my body parts and how they affect one another.
Try it for your self!!! See what it brings up for you. Notice what it feels like. What and where do you rub against tension or an unfamiliar coupling in your movement in rhythm with your breath cycle? What is new for you?
There are concepts from the lens of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) that help explain how the body shapes and molds in relationship with the space and structures of our thoracic cavity. LMA breaks movement down into four categories: Body, Effort, Shape and Space. In the Shape category there is a concept called Shape Qualities, which describe the ongoing shape-change of the body and they have affinity with different spatial pulls. There are six basic Shape Qualities in the LMA System: Advancing, Retreating, Ascending, Descending, Enclosing and Spreading. These descriptions are very helpful in accessing the deep inner shape change of our body, like with the shape-change dance between our heart and lungs with each breath.
Take the three basic dimensions of space: Saggital, Horizontal & Vertical. These basic 3 dimensions in our universe are also found in our body, in all its parts, inside and out, of its whole. Each Shape Quality can be explored in organized coordination, what we call “affinity.” This is a general coordination with each movement as we change our shape of our body as a whole and as a part. It is not the only way to work with the shape-change, but one pattern discovered to be most affined. The four Shape Qualities affine with each dimension in the following way:
While moving toward something along the Saggital dimension we ADVANCE. We move with an on-going shape-change backward by RETREATING. These are the two basic Shape Qualities along the Saggital Dimension.
As we move upward along the Vertical Dimension we change our shape with a quality of ASCENDING. As we go downward our shape changes with a DESCENDING quality.
Leading with our right side and moving toward the left side along the Horizontal Dimension we move with a quality of ENCLOSING. Going right along the Horizontal line leading with our right we SPREADING.
In the flow of your asana practice and in a sequence of asana invite these coordinated actions of the lung-heart couple simultaneously:
- INHALE: ADVANCE & ENCLOSE & ASCEND the LUNGS around the HEART while you RETREAT & DESCEND the heart.
- EXHALE: ADVANCE & SPREAD the HEART while you RETREAT & DESCEND the LUNGS.
To learn more about this, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or post questions and curiousities on my facebook page: Somatic Health & Seasonal Wellness at https://www.facebook.com/IMPRINTSomaticMovement?ref=hl!
I love to share this work. In fact it is a strong basis to my Somatic Movement Therapy and Somatic Movement Education sessions, as well as the Yoga & Dance classes I teach for groups and individuals.
Basic information about Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals can be found at the Laban Institute of Movement Students (LIMS) Website, where I work in Brooklyn. I am available for one-to-one sessions to learn more through hands-on movement experiences guided by these principles and concepts at three different locations in Brooklyn: LIMS, Kula Yoga Project Williamsburg, or my home studio. I am also available for appointments in any of the other 5 boroughs in New York City.
I look forward to hearing from you. Please post here or on my facebook page about your questions, discoveries, and experience with the dance of the heart and lungs!
Big LOVE, Corinne