It’s All About That Breath
I hope everyone is having a great day today! That the sun is shining bright wherever you are, if not around you, then in your hearts. Filling you up with love, appreciation, and gratitude with each inhale, and settling a little deeper into the amazing self you are with each exhale. BREATHE! How amazing breath is! How calming and connecting breath is! It’s breath that leads me on the slackline and keeps me on the line when I get shaky. I’d like to share with you my exploration into closing my eyes while slacklining and using the breath to deepen this experience.
Last year sometime around February or March of 2015, I began practicing on a slackline set up at my house. I was practicing regularly with my roommate, both of us in the front yard, taking turns doing different drills on the line. Somewhere along the way we began practicing certain drills like sitting, laying down, and standing on the line with our eyes closed. I began to take this on as a way to find my balance from inside. I started thinking if I could balance with my arms at my side or in my pocket, essentially taking them away, maybe I didn’t need my eyes to balance either. If balance can come from inside, then what better way to explore that then to close my eyes and gently force myself to have to look inside to find a place of stillness.
Slacklining With Eyes Closed
Over the course of many months I began to form a goal and a training regiment. I wanted to begin with a Chongo start, to standing, then walk across the line, all with my eyes closed. Through practicing and experimenting I began to see how important it was to practice the Chong start, just standing, and trying to walk as separate drills. The goal became to train each of the three drills many times, then start to piece them together. So that’s what I did, I trained just standing and walking blind in the middle of the line and the Chongo start near the anchor point. The one constant that returned again and again to help bring focus and calmness was breath. The overall sensation of having your eyes open to closing them while your on the line, is unique. For me, it goes from being light, eyes full of color and images, to being dark with a few burnt images of what I was just looking at fading away to nothing. My body goes into a bit of a frenzy and my mind grasps at something familiar to orient itself. Immediately I have to focus on breath! The breath begins to calm my mind and helps draw my attention to my feet. I start to imagine that my feet have eyes and I pour all my attention to relaxing into my feet, letting them be soft, but aware. I think about drawing all my muscles in towards the core, and activating my mid section. The longer I maintain focus on engaging, breathing, and softening–the longer I stay on the line.
I started getting comfortable doing a Chongo start on my right side blind, so I began to train the left side blind. The hardest part with the Chongo start for me was settling down once I stood up so that I could try to take a few steps. Eventually I trained all three areas, just standing, walking, and Chongo start enough times that I wanted to start putting it all together.
Breaking Down Walls
In June of 2015, I went with my roommate to a YogaSlackers Teacher Training in Virginia. The instructors had us set some slacklining goals, and of course one of mine was to Chongo start and walk across the line with eyes closed. It was a great learning and training experience and I did accomplish many goals, but was not successful on my blind walk. Walking blind on the line is hard! It feels like 1 step forward and 2 falls off. Yet I enjoy exploring the space created when I close my eyes. Playing with this idea that we can all experience a centered, balanced place from within. I believe all the noise and visual stimulus is just a distraction to our inner balance. A comfortable crutch because most of us rely on our sense of sight and sound to ground out and find connection to ourselves and that which is around us. When you close your eyes and drawl your attention to the internal chatter that occurs, it can be a bit of a challenge to be centered. Especially when in an active balancing pose or while standing our sitting on a slackline. In order to settle down and be calm, I have to let all the external dependencies to balance fall away, to make space for this internal playground of balance and breath. It’s a mental exercise of strength as well as a physical exercise of strength, while maintaining breath and relaxing the body and mind at the same time. It’s almost like a riddle or puzzle. You have to find strength, but be soft, be aware yet be relaxed, calmly embrace the racing thoughts to let them disappear, so you’re not really thinking, your just being.
While I was traveling in Bali this past November and December, I was getting on the slackline almost daily. It was a goal to slackline practice as many days as I could, taking advantage of the beautiful beach, the warm glowing sun, and the soft sand beneath my feet. It was one of these training days that I made the most progress on my blind Chongo start and walk yet! It began at one end near an anchor point, both feet on the ground eyes closed. I took my shirt off and tied it around my eyes, blocking the light from shinning trough my eyelids. I got into my Chongo start position and it was game on. I successfully stood, settled and began to walk. I took a few steps than started getting shaky! This is when I usually turn out and bail off the line, but not this time. I tightened my core, drawling the energy all in, with a slight bend in the knees to lower my center of gravity. I re-settled, continued walking, and made it just past halfway on a 40′ line before I came down.The best part is I came down with a smile and full of excitement. I knew I had not made it all the way across the line, but knew that I had made it further than ever before. I was carving marks in the sand at the points where I would fall off, and this time I made it 7-10 feet past my last mark.
I’m still working on checking this blind walk off my goal list, some goals take longer than others. Recognizing the little steps of success along the way is important for building the bridge that will eventually support me as I journey towards my goal. A real treat is what I have been learning on this journey. That taking time to close your eyes and just be with yourself is soul medicine. Finding connections between breath and movement create a very stable and fluid foundation for any practice. So if you want to deepen your Slackline practice or AcroYoga practice or any practice, I recommend closing your eyes (being safe, using mats and spotters, please and thank you).
Temporarily unplug from what you see outside and take an internal journey through space and time, through the course of your own mind. Find what you can see while your eyes are blind! Thanks for reading, and if you have any blind training techniques, I would love to hear about them.