Breathing is an essential aspect of yoga and ayurveda that takes into account the body as well as the mind and spirit. As we learn to deepen and slow down our breathing habits, our lung capacity extends, oxygen levels increase and all of our systems benefit. Through the breath, we take in what we need and release what no longer serves us. But this nourishment doesn’t just exist on a physical level. The unseen energy of the breath flows into, out of and within the body and is transmitted to every molecule to align and balance us physically, mentally and spiritually.Continue reading “May the (Life) Force Be with You￼”
The great sea
Has sent me adrift,
It moves me as the weed in a great river,
Earth and the great weather
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts with joy. – An Eskimo Song
Now that we have created breath awareness and discovered some new ways to expand our breathing vessel, let us address the quality of the breath. This week, I will introduce some simple techniques of pranayama or breath control.
Here are four methods for elongating the breath:
#1 Ujjayi Breathing
This approach can be described as a slight deepening of the normal breath. It is best done from a supine or seated position in which your body is nicely aligned. Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Elongate the Breath with Four Simple Techniques”
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ― Rumi,
As students of yoga, we eventually learn how to connect with our breathing. We come to understand that the simple act of inhalation and exhalation can be enhanced when our posture is aligned. As we physically straighten, we open ourselves up to experience a fuller range of movement in the upper chest/back, ribcage and abdominal areas.
In an attempt to expand our vessels for the breath, here are three key strategies:
#1 Counteract “Techno – Hump”
Using computers and cell phones can adversely affect our breathing function. The head forward position can lead to a spinal curvature disorder called kyphosis which compresses the movement of air by collapsing the chest.
Here is a short posture sequence for reducing upper back tension and straightening the body:
As we continue to explore the poses and our breathing practices, we are expanding our level of awareness. We are learning to pay attention. We are discovering what it is to be in the present moment. And, it is in the present moment that we experience our true “state of yoga.” It is where we see our connection and remember who we are.
The fourth limb of the yogic system is pranayama or breath control. It is made up of a range of techniques that begin with simple awareness and continue on with more intensive control approaches.
Although pranayama is an integral part of yoga, the practice is not generally taught until a student is comfortable resting with their breath in either a supine or seated position. In this way, a student learns to relax completely in order to receive the breath.
Breathing practices give your mind focus – you virtually tune in when you pay attention to your breath. This can occur whether you are in a resting pose or actively performing the asanas. As many teachers will tell you, “if it is not with the breath, it is not yoga.”
A good way to begin the practice of pranayama is to focus on your belly breath: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Discover Your Breath”
“Pranayama has slowly pried open some of the tighter places in my body and so provided me with new openings in my asana practice. This, in turn, affects my breathing and, so on and so on, asana and pranayama oscillating back and forth to each other’s advantage.” – Richard Rosen
Pranayama or breath control is defined by B.K.S Iyengar as: “… techniques to make the respiratory organs move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively. It consist of long, sustained subtle flow of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath.”
With the guidance of some of the world’s wisest yoga teachers, I have made it my quest to incorporate pranayama into my practice. Breaking down the art of breathing into separate stages has helped me to gradually meld it into my daily yoga routine. Over the next few weeks, I will share my personal journey towards pranayama with you. Here are the four main categories we will explore: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Breathe”
I am a bit late for the Monday Yoga Challenge. After spending a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, I gave myself another week for recharging and reflection. We all need breaks from routine and time to contemplate on our direction.
So, this challenge is to focus on nothing…
…nothing but reflecting and restoring ourselves for the coming days when we will take on more commitments, more cooking, more cleaning, more talking, more staying up late, more drinking, more eating – you get the picture.
Take some time each day this week to relax and enjoy these set of restorative postures:
Tuesday: Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall) – belt your thighs together to really let go!
Wednesday: Cat/Cow & Child’s Pose – use your breath to guide you as you flow from Cat to Cow and then give yourself adequate support for maintaining a comfortable Child’s Pose.
Thursday: Do a Bed Stretch – alternate bringing your knees into your chest and slowly allow your breath to extend and awaken you.
Friday: Supine Stretching (you can use this as another Bed Stretch) – inhale as you lengthen your arms overhead/activate your legs then allow your exhalations to completely release the stretch (repeat).
Saturday: Find a quiet corner to sit and visualize your breath moving up and down your spine.
Sunday: Take a True Savasana – be warm and set your timer for 15 minutes, focusing on your breath.
And, finally, something to reflect on – the definition of Savasana as explained by B.K.S Iyengar:
“In the beginning, the ribs do not relax, the breath is rough and uneven, while the mind and intellect waver. Gradually, a student learns to still the body, the senses and the mind while keeping the intellect alert. When savasana is well performed the breath moves like a string holding the pearls of a necklace together. There is minimum wastage of energy and maximum recuperation. It refreshes the whole being, making one dynamic and creative. It creates fearlessness and serenity.”