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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Yoga on the Go

We are all so busy (How’s that for a blinding flash of the obvious?) that the idea of fitting a regular home yoga practice into an already packed schedule seems impossible. Because group yoga classes last an hour or more, many folks think that a personal practice at home needs to be the same length of time or they’re not really “practicing” yoga.

But, that’s not so. The important element is the quality of the practice not the length of time. From 5 to 10 minutes of mindful breathing with a little movement can be very beneficial.  

For example, begin by sitting on a chair or lying on your yoga mat. Bring your attention to your breath and begin to deepen your inhalation and lengthen your exhalation. Eyes closed is usually more effective. Really focus on your breath noticing how the breath gently moves the spine. The spine lengthens slightly on inhale and flexes slightly on exhale. Do you feel it? If you don’t, please don’t stress. You will eventually.

You can add some gentle head turns or arm movements if you like but it’s not necessary. If you would like to feel more energized at the end of your practice, add a 2 to 4 second pause after inhale. If you would like to feel more relaxed make your exhale several counts longer than your inhale and add a 1 or 2 second pause after exhale.

That’s it. You’re practicing yoga. And, it only took a few minutes. Try to do this several times a week and see what changes you feel.

What Else about the Breath?

Welcome again to our guest blogger, Sue Everton. This week Sue provides useful tidbits that are good reminders for us all as we engage in our yoga practices.

Well, we could take this to another dimension.  In yoga, breath is the basis of healing and  Viniyoga is a healing methodology; a sort of energy medicine.  Remember how Joanne blogs about adjusting the breath ratio to energize or relax? 

 Always work in a “pain free” zone.  Think about what pain does to the breath.  It will shorten and become shallow. 

  • Be methodical and focused in your practice.  Remember that the slower you go through breath regulation, the easier it will be to move into more depth in your posture.  It gives a whole new meaning to “stay.” 
  • Practice Satya (truthfulness).  If you need an extra breath during movement into your posture, pause and take one!  Avoid struggling.
  • Expect the unexpected.  Your practice will never be the same from one day to the next.  Find santosa (contentment) with each practice and, over time, watch for healing in your body and spirit. 

 From a health standpoint, breath promotes so many things.  Among them are awareness (mental acuity), circulation, and structural health.  Strive to make your practice one of voluntary simplicity; practice moderation. Be smart about your practice and remain within the envelope of breath.

 I would love to hear how the breath has meaning to you.  Please send your thoughts and ideas.

 

Where is My Breath?

This week guest blogger, Sue Everton, continues our discussion on the breath. Welcome, Sue. and thank you for your insights.

Because of the importance of the breath and the spine in Viniyoga, the practitioner will want to be able to translate the impact of the breath on the spine throughout the practice; chest expansion with inhale, abdominal compression during exhale. Also consider the three-dimensionality of the breath on your body? 

To experience this three-dimensionality, begin by lying down.  Be comfortable; perhaps a pillow under your knees?  Place a hand on your chest and on your abdomen.  When you inhale, notice how the hand on your chest rises, feel the expansion and lift of the ribs and see if you can feel your back expand a little into the floor.  The back expansion is the third dimension of the breath and may take practice and familiarity before you discover it.  You may notice that the spine seems to get a tiny bit longer during inhale.  This is an important function of the relationship of the spine and breath; it allows an off-loading/lifting of the daily downward pressure that our spines experience.  This small lift of the spine also provides more room for the nerves that pass through the spine, providing nerve protection during the practice.

 Now, focus on the exhale.  Notice that the hand on your abdomen will move down toward the mat with exhale.  This movement allows the muscles of the abdomen to provide stability to our fragile lower spine during practice.  Also, you may notice a stretching of the lower spine allowing for nerve relief and improved low-back flexibility.

The breath and its associated natural movement protects your back during yoga activities, promoting spinal flexibility and nerve protection.  Use each breath that you take during your practice to find the incredible breath-spine relationship!  No matter how challenging the posture, if you use the breath to precede the movement into the pose, you will promote mindful stability and enhance and protect the health of your spine.

 

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