Form and Breath

Every activity requires a balance of finding the correct form and using the right kind of breathwork to propel the motion. Sage Rountree explains.

For athletes in every sport, the focus of attention is form and breath. We look for the right form for the moment, and we use a breath that serves the needs of the form we take.

Whether you’re about to serve a volleyball, navigate a whitewater course, or move through your asana practice, you need to engage the right muscles to accomplish the task. Without the appropriate engagement, you won’t reach your goals; with too much engagement, you’re wasting energy and sapping your endurance. In training, we practice finding the right amount of energy use to manage the form, becoming more efficient and smoother as we learn. With practice, we sharpen our ability to specify exactly the right engagement moment to moment, so we can respond very quickly to the demands of the course and the competition. In this way, we come very fully into each moment.

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The breath to use is whatever best feeds the form we choose. For a swimmer, that varies based on stroke and distance. For a rower, it might match the cadence of the oars. On the mat, it could be ujjayi breath in a flowing sequence or a soft, relaxed breath in Savasana. Matching breath to form, we inhabit the present moment.

In your next practice, cycle your attention back to form and breath periodically. If you are working at an easy effort—or feel bored—noticing form and breath will help you focus. If you are working very hard, form and breath help you sharpen, center, and calm down. Either way, this attention helps you live in the moment. What else is there?