Breathing in the Back Meditation: Finding Calm and Serenity.

Have you ever thought about how we conduct ourselves and move in life?

We are often told that we are looking a lot into the future and planning or projecting too much ahead. We are ‘frontal creatures.’ The concept that human beings are ‘forward-thinking’ and moving “frontal creatures” likely refers to the unique features and functions of the frontal lobe in the human brain.

The frontal lobe, located at the front of the cerebral cortex, is associated with higher cognitive functions, personality, decision-making, and social behaviour. We are shaping our personality via the frontal lobe, which influences emotional expression, empathy, impulse control, moral reasoning, and the ability to understand social cues.

The frontal lobe plays a crucial role in executive functions, including planning, problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, and attention. These abilities allow humans to set goals, make complex judgments, and engage in abstract thinking.

The frontal lobe also manages our movements, working memories, and language skills like finding the right words or learning a new one, but most importantly, it enables us to think about the future, set goals and plan.

Modern and industrial society asks us to perform more and more, have many responsibilities from a young age, and constantly request to propel ourselves into the world. These daily demands have become standard, repetitive attitudes and actions within our bodies and minds. We are growing accustomed to the incessant notion of fuelling our desire for success and expending constant energy to promote ourselves to the world around us.

To maintain a continuous, demanding state of forward movement and thinking, where we constantly urge ourselves to keep going, we are placing an ongoing burden on our bodies, particularly the muscles located at the back.

When the back muscles are in constant activity, they contract. We might not notice this or don’t pay attention and think it is normal; it is becoming an ingrained habit. This phenomenon is known as sensory-motor amnesia, and once it sets in, our ability to control this reflex diminishes. Instead, we experience fatigue, soreness, tension, and pain, manifesting in various areas such as the back of our heads, necks, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and buttocks.

In order to address this issue, we need to examine our lifestyles and establish boundaries that allow us to slow down and take a moment to breathe. This can be challenging, as we often fear missing out on opportunities and believe we are not making the correct choices.

In today’s society, mindfulness, breathwork, somatic and yoga movements, and meditation have gained significant popularity. This is because we are starting to realise that an incessant and unregulated pursuit of the future harms our health. Instead, we have learned that slowing down and focusing on the present moment is more beneficial for our well-being.

There is a powerful method to transform our frontal habits: shifting our focus to the back of the body and practising with awareness.

The influential yoga teacher Vanda Scaravelli asked her students to cultivate a deep connection and awareness of the spine and the back in yoga practice. Her approach to yoga deviates from traditional alignment-based practices and emphasises a more intuitive and natural approach to movement. She believed the back is the key to unlocking the body’s innate intelligence and potential for effortless movement.

Instead of forcing the body into postures (forward-thinking and moving), Scaravelli encouraged students to explore and release tension in the back, allowing the spine to elongate and move with freedom. She meant that awareness of the back of your body could enhance your body mechanics and movement patterns. It helps you engage or relax the correct muscles and distribute the workload evenly or free movements more fluidly.

Examining the posterior aspect of the body can contribute significantly to enhancing posture and alignment while pinpointing and addressing any tension, weakness, or imbalance present. Acknowledging these concerns, one can actively work towards strengthening weakened muscles, freeing and enhancing flexibility, and averting possible injuries.

Additionally, it aids in avoiding excessive strain on specific back regions during daily activities or exercise. This particular awareness facilitates better control over pain and discomfort management by comprehending their origins and implementing appropriate measures to alleviate them.

But besides the physiological benefits, developing awareness of the back of your body enhances the mind-body connection. By focusing on this area, you cultivate a deeper relationship between your physical sensations and mental state. Paying attention to the back of your body brings us automatically into the present moment and consequently promotes relaxation and can be very calming,

By consciously relaxing and releasing tension in this area, we can experience a sense of relief and ease. This can be especially helpful in managing stress, as the back is a common area where stress and tension accumulate.

The part of the brain responsible for feeling the back of the body is the primary somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory information via the skin, muscles, and connective tissues. It interprets and digests this tactile information to transform them into crucial insights and learnings about how we move in the world (proprioception) and body awareness. It also teaches us how to deal with pain by re-establishing connections with the body and restricted areas and promotes sensory relearning.

When you experience sensation on the back of your body, the sensory information from that region is transmitted to the primary somatosensory cortex for processing and interpretation. This, in turn, stimulates positive actions that trigger hormonal changes and involve various factors to enhance our emotional and physical well-being.

In summary, there are so many benefits to trying to shift our awareness towards the back of our body, but overall, being aware of the back of the body can enhance psychological well-being by promoting mindfulness, body acceptance, emotional release, improved communication, self-awareness, and stress reduction. It allows for a more holistic and integrated experience of oneself, both physically and psychologically.

Meditation: Breathing with the Back

As we mentioned above, directing how awareness to the back of the body is not easy and especially when moving or in a yoga pose.

It demands particular attention, which might feel unsettling for some people who are used to the constant ‘frontal creature’ state and shifting from one to the other takes time.

Here is a meditation practice with the breath that might help:

Lie on the floor or sit upright on a chair.

Relax the body and feel its connection with the surface below.

Bring your awareness to the front of your body and the space in front.

In turn, be aware of your face, front of the throat, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, pelvis, legs, and feet.

Feel the front surface of the body again.

Rest with it for a moment.

Now, pay attention to the breath moving and touching the front of your body.

Rest with your breath for a moment.

Now, Imagine the inhalation coming from the front of your body and passing throughout your entire body and touching every cell and every tissue of your body.

When you exhale, relax all body.

Continue this breathing practice and perceive the in-breath, aiming to reach the back of your body slowly.

Breathe in from the front towards the back of the body.

Feel the breath moving towards and touching your back, nourishing and stimulating it.

When the turn of the exhalation comes, keep your mind on your back and allow the out-breath to relax, calm and soften the entire back of your body.

Repeat this technique several times until you feel connected with your back.

When the connection is clear, rest your attention and awareness along your back as long as it is comfortable.

If you feel unsettled by this connection, remove yourself from the rear of your body and return to the front with your mind or by bringing your hands to your chest.

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