The breath. Our constant companion through life (thankfully), a gauge of our emotional, energetic and mental state, the building block of self-study and a way to enter into present moment experience.
In Restorative yoga, we experience the breath on a continuum of sensation according to Donna Farhi in The Breathing Book, fluidly shifting from involuntary, to a recognition of breath in it's more conscious form to actively taking part influencing the movement, pace and frequency of inhale and exhale.
There are moments when we sink so deep into a meditative state that it almost feels as though we "forget to breathe" or we can attune to a deep, pulsing rhythm at the level of our cells. There are moments when the impulse to exhale is so strong that we gently allow the breath to release through a long sigh, leaving behind an empty space to fill with vitality. And finally, we make a conscious choice to experiment with the pattern of breath to see how it might change our inner experience, to settle the mind, to welcome an energetic shift.
To imagine or visualize the breath is often the first step towards feeling the pranic layer in all of its' shifting, changing and morphing patterns. To feel how the breath can both calm, soothe and regulate the nervous system, but also activate, uplift and inspire lends itself well to once again tapping into our own capacity to self-soothe and determining what it is you actually need.
At the root of any yoga practice is self-study (svadyaya). One of the ways that we can begin to know ourselves is through breath. This changeable, yet constant force that flows through us is one of the most elemental paradoxes of our existence as a human being: to breathe and be breathed.