Monthly Archives: July 2011
“I can’t do yoga because my body just won’t bend that way.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard some version of that statement . . .
According to T.K.V. Desikachar, “Anybody can breathe; therefore anybody can practice yoga.” In other words, we can all do yoga no matter our age, physical ability or experience level. There are many ways to practice yoga asanas a/k/a postures or poses. Your goal in any asana is to be alert/ stable/ present (Sthira) and relaxed/comfortable/without pain (Sukha) whether you’re doing a shoulder stand or seated breathing. And, if the pose doesn’t allow you to be these things, then the pose needs to be modified to fit you. You do not need to be modified to fit the pose. This concept is fundamental to the tradition of yoga known as Viniyoga because every body is unique.
One of my students had been having trouble sleeping and asked me if yoga could help her. The short answer is “yes”. Yoga is wonderful for relaxing the body and quieting the mind particularly when a calming breathing pattern is utilized.
There are four parts to the breath – (1) inhalation (2) pause after inhalation (3) exhalation (4) pause after exhalation. The first two are more energizing and stimulating and the second two are more relaxing and calming. In yoga terms, brmhana is used to describe an expansive/invigorating breath and langhana is used to describe a more reducing/relaxing breath. So, the breathing pattern used will determine whether the effect on a person is brmhana or langhana.
For encouraging sleep, a langhana pattern would be emphasized. An example of this pattern would be inhale for a count of 4; pause for 1; exhale for a count of 8; pause for 1. Starting with a count of 4 for inhalation might be too intense, so you could drop that down to inhale for a count of 2; pause 1; exhale for a count of 4; pause 1 and work up to the 4/1/8/1 count. It is important to use a pattern that is easy to accomplish and doesn’t create more strain. Also, an important rule to remember when creating any breathing pattern is to never let the inhalation count be longer than the exhalation count – even when doing a brmhana breathing pattern. Continue reading
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