A Different Way to Breathe
Viniyoga teachers, myself included, explain to their students that one of the primary things differentiating Viniyoga from other types of yoga is an emphasis on the breath. But, what does that mean? Other yoga teachers remind their students to breathe. What’s so different about the Viniyoga approach?
In this approach, the breath initiates all movement and is coordinated with the pace of the movement in each asana (posture). For example, backbends are typically initiated on inhale while forward bends are initiated on exhale because inhaling is more expansive while exhaling is more contracting. Breathing is done through the nose as the chest lifts and expands on inhale and the belly contracts on exhale. Visualize the inhale moving down the front of the body as the chest, rib cage and belly expand and the exhale moving up the front of the body as the belly, rib cage and chest contract – a top down, bottom up approach to the breath. By the way, when you begin the inhale, retain or keep a slight contraction in the belly – throughout the inhale.
Coordinate the length of the breath with the pace of your movement during the asana – another key differentiator. To understand what that means, come to a standing position with arms by your sides. As you inhale to a count of 4 to 6 seconds, raise your arms over your head toward the ceiling and as you exhale to a count of 4 to 6 seconds, lower them down to your sides. If you run out of breath before your arms are over your head or back down to your sides, you will need to speed up the pace of the movement to match the length of your breath. You want a little breath remaining at the end of the inhale and exhale so that it doesn’t feel forced. Over time, your breath will lengthen and your movements slow to match the longer breath.
In Viniyoga, breath is paramount. It initiates each movement into the asana (on either inhale or exhale) and is consciously coordinated with the pace of movement during the asana. This approach requires and cultivates mental focus.
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