Like many Westerners I started with a viewpoint that yoga was an “exercise workout” and had varying levels of difficulty and styles depending on your interests. As I have learned about the 8 limbs and the rich history of yoga it seems so disconnected to try and quantify the history and spirituality into a “core power hot flow”.
I want to present as authentic and genuine and for me that means really knowing as much as I can about the vastness of Yoga Sutra-s – which will probably take many lives and often feels like I’m taking a dixie cup to the ocean and trying to drink all the water OR more often like I am a sponge and someone turned on a water hose. It is important for me, and other teachers, to be mindful of the history and intention of yoga and that is so much more than just stretching and exercise.
From the moment you are born you take your first breath. If you think about it we are all given a certain number of breaths while we are here on earth. It is our first pattern that we develop without even realizing it!
Let’s try a little experiment with the breath, take your hand and hold it up a few inches away from your face with your palm facing you. Take a breath in and then breath out like you are trying to fog a mirror. Notice the heat you feel. Next, take a deep breath in and blow the air out like you are blowing out birthday candles (pursed lips). Notice the cooling you feel.
The breath is one of the only things in your body that you can do automatically (like the heart beating) and consciously tuning into. Often when we are stressed we either breath shallow or hold our breath, depriving our bodies of rich oxygen. This depletion puts the brain into an activated limbic state and then the body responds to the stress by producing hormones to help keep you alive (think adrenaline). After the stress has surpassed the body produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone affects the parasympathetic nervous system (or the breaks). Too much cortisol in the body is not ideal. It can have negative ramifications or your health.
In Yoga for Wellness, Gary Kraftsow writes,
“all movement in asana is initiated through the action of the breath and is guided by the breath. In other words: Breath is always initiated prior to movement, it evokes a natural movement of the spine, and the action of an asana is coordinated with this movement.”
Again, breath leads the asana. The place of origin determines the effect of a movement. When we tune into the breath we are more focused on the subtle action it has within our bodies. On exhale we are able to engage our stomach (rectus abdominis muscles) and support the lumbo-pelvic rhythm. When we inhale we create an expansion in the chest/thoracic cavity and a vertical extension of the spine; coupled inhalation with raising the arms has a deepening effect and helps support axial extension which supports twists or laterals. From an energetic level we can influence a calming & sedating experience for someone with trauma or anxiety/panic OR we can create a practice to build confidence energize and stabilize someone experiencing depression or low self esteem.
By tuning in to the breath as a guide for the whole yoga experience it becomes a “exercise work-IN”
Let me guide you through this radical approach to your relationship with yoga and how you can create a state of natural healing and transformation!