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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Are You Breathing? Are You Sure?

I frequently get the question, “What is Viniyoga and what makes it different?” Viniyoga is distinguished from other forms of yoga in several important ways, and the one I’ll discuss today is the breath.

The usual response when I say that Viniyoga focuses on the breath is “Well, we focus on breath during class too.” In other words … there’s nothing different about that.

Over the years I’ve attended non-Viniyoga classes and, yes, there usually is some mention of the breath at various times during the practice. It’s usually in the form of a reminder to breathe. But … it’s nothing like Viniyoga’s total focus on the breath throughout every posture.

Each posture originates on inhale or exhale and movement follows. Classically, the direction of the breath flows from chest to belly on inhale and belly to chest on exhale  which is another big difference. Other forms of yoga reverse that direction. (see Direct Breath Flow & Improve Posture)

The flow of the breath and movement of the spine are linked and the effect of breath on the spine is fundamental. On inhale, the chest and rib cage expand and lift up from the navel as the spine lengthens and extends. On exhale, the belly contracts as the pubic bone pulls up toward the navel as the spine flexes. Unlike other forms of yoga ,the breath supports the spine throughout the movement.

In Viniyoga, breath moves the body. Think of it as movement from the inside out.

Benefits of Pranayama

Last week I defined pranayama but why practice it? What are the benefits of regular pranayama practice? First of all, benefits are cumulative so to really experience them, it’s important to practice consistently over a period of time. But, back to the topic at hand … Following are a couple of the benefits.

In pranayama exercises we focus on deepening the inhale and lengthening the exhale. A primary reason for practicing pranayama is to prepare for meditation. From a physiological perspective, pranayama increases the capacity of the lungs which allows more oxygen to come into the body and flow to the cells. The increased oxygenation of the cells improves energy levels and alertness.

It is well established that yoga – which includes pranayama – reduces stress and anxiety. For example, as we bring awareness to the breath and observe the breath deepen and lengthen, the mind begins to become more calm and quiet which results in feeling more in control, less stressed.  A key element is mindfulness. It is very important to stay present with the breath and observe the breath throughout the pranayama practice.

The subject of pranayama is vast and it is important to have the guidance of a qualified teacher to structure a program that is appropriate for the individual.

 

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