October 3, 2013

Silent Reflection in the Labyrinth

By Margaret Rappaport

“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last”, remarked Joseph Pilates describing the foundational principle of his fitness method. “Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”

Walking the labyrinth is the perfect place to learn and practice breathing. Stop at a place of your choice on your walk. Place your feet flat about a hip width apart on the pathway or in the center or along the boundary. Put one hand on each side of your lower rib cage with your fingertips touching. This gives you a tactile point of reference so your breathing is regular and rhythmical. Slowly breathe in through your nose. Visualize the movement of your diaphragm and feel your ribs move laterally into your waiting hands. Your fingertips will separate to accommodate your breath expanded diaphragm. Don’t lift your shoulders; let your mind and core muscles do the work.

Then reflect on exhaling. Your body’s core is like a cylinder from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm. Breath fills the cylinder when you inhale and leaves the cylinder when you exhale. Again rest your hands lightly on your rib cage. Exhale through pursed lips until your fingertips meet. Exhale as fully as you can.

Inhaling and exhaling in this way is called cleansing breath. It is a ritual which improves with practice and customization. It brings refreshment, calmness and deep inner satisfaction. Outwardly, you sense a keenness of perception and a quickening of energy.

Breathing in silent concentration and reflection during your walk in the labyrinth lets you experience the path to a healthy center. With time you may find cleansing breath to be your habit in and out of the labyrinth.

Margaret Rappaport