Sabine: Ronald, you open your video with the above quote. Why is connecting the breath with movement a key element to finding your true self?
Ronald: We can see to the bottom of a lake only when the water is clear. The same can be said of our true nature. We see this using the lens of our human nature. But even this lens requires clarity. This means that if we can cultivate a clear balance in every aspect of our being, we can look deeply within ourselves to gain perspective on who we are.
The breath plays a central role for me, because it weaves itself between the physical body and the spirit. A holistic inner-harmony emerges within you when conscious awareness of breath and movement are united. Out of this calm arises clarity, which is necessary to recognize our true nature.
Sabine: In the video I was under the impression that it wasn't just your lungs, but rather your entire body that was breathing. How do you manage to embody the breath so powerfully while displaying such a profound sense of ease?
Ronald: It may seem trivial, but the depth of our breath and the modification of the body's shape are one and the same. I like to kid with my students by telling them that they can measure their lung size, or more specifically, their vital capacity. Here's how:
Get into a bathtub mostly full with water. Take a deep breath while staying submerged . The change in volume of the water in the tub, i.e. the difference in the height of the water, tells you what your lung capacity is.
It seems very rudimentary, but it is really just that simple. The breath changes the shape of our bodies, in varying degrees and in different ways. The deeper we breathe, the more pronounced the change in shape. The trick to developing a deep and even breath pattern is to experience its role in the body's movement and from there work to expand and harmonize it.
I have been enjoying this exciting journey of inner exploration for years, and I know that I am only halfway there. But knowing that there is always more to discover makes things all the more interesting for me.
Sabine: Deep and complete breath are the central focus whenever you are teaching. What effect does this type of breath have on the body? Why is it worthwhile to deepen and decelerate my breath?
Ronald: The depth in which you breath directly affects your physical mobility. In mobilizing the torso, we create space for breath. But it also works the other way around: if we learn to breathe deeply, the flexibility in the torso increases and becomes effortless. It's actually amazing how easy it is to improve flexibility by breathing completely. There are some folks who have been practicing yoga for a long time and who still have challenges with mobility, mainly because they have never really experienced the softness connected with cultivating a deep, calm breath.
But even this isn't enough: The muscles used for breathing lie deep within the body. By activating and integrating them, we start to move from within. The individual bones are stretched by the myofascial network. This evened-out tension of the fascia extends throughout the network to the rest of the body, all the way to the fingers and toes. As a result the pressure on joints and discs are reduced. We can utilize our breath to help reduce complaints of back pain, as well as other range of motion issues.
Most important to me, however, is the effect of the breath on the mind. The calming sound of deep and powerful breathing leads us directly into a meditative state. We feel awake and calm at the same time. From this, a moving meditation can arise.
Sabine: That sounds really impressive - and convincing. There are so many good reasons to bring this focus into practice for yourself. I'd like to end on a different note with my last question: Where were you practicing in this video?
Ronald: That was while we were on vacation in Mallorca. By coincidence I happened to meet Alessandro Sigismondi, a professional filmmaker who practices Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga himself. We got along right away and decided to make this short film on a nearby cliff.
Sabine: Thank you for your inspirational video and insight on the breath. I am already eager to hear about your next 'breath journey'!