Making a connection to your breath in your Yoga practice can be transformative. All to often we hold, stain or ignore the breath which can create tension in our bodies and minds. Exactly the opposite result of what we want from our Yoga class! Here are some top tips to encourage more breath and awareness during your Yoga practice.
Yoga is a practice of awareness.
Next time you attend a class or practice yourself, take a moment, mid flow to become aware of your breath. Ask yourself, 'Am I breathing?' 'How am I breathing?' Then....allow yourself to breathe!
You should be able to breathe at all times.
Notice if your breath becomes very shallow or stained. If you are having difficulty breathing it could be a sign you should back off a little on the intensity of the pose.
In Yoga we generally in inhale and exhale through the nose.
It is thought to be the best way to keep energy within the body. There maybe occasions we exhale through the mouth in order to give a feeling of release for a short period of time.
Surround your movement with breath.
The breath can initiate the movement. Coordinating the physical movement with breath creates flow and ease in our body. Timing your breath with the movement can be challenging, especially in a class with inhale/exhale cues from the Yoga instructor. Within reason, we would say always follow the timing of your own body and breath. It would be practically impossible for all the people in a Yoga class to be breathing at the same time for the duration of the class. The Yoga instructors cues are just meant as a guide and reminder.
Do we inhale or exhale in this movement/pose?
Forward bending postures are linked with the exhalation, a feeling of release, surrender and closing. Backward bending postures are linked with the inhalation, a feeling a wakening, joy and opening. Twists are normally practiced with an exhalation as we turn (as there is less space in the lungs as we twist) and an inhalation to return. This is a general way the breath is used to compliment a physical Yoga practice and why a Yoga instructor would be giving certain cues. The reasons why can be elaborated on and it is a massive subject, with some reasons why the above may vary too.
In a Yoga class, there maybe hundreds of inhale/exhale cues, strange new breathing techniques, other people breathing loudly around you and some people barely breathing at all! When in doubt the best thing to do is just breathe normally :)
If you liked this blog, sign up to our mailing and if you are local to North London or NYC drop in to one our classes and courses!
Lots of love
Hana and Aya xxx
The other day someone in class asked about what kind of diet supports a physical Yoga practice and I replied by saying that the Yogic diet is Sattvic. A diet of whole foods, veggies and unprocessed foods keeps the body light and limber. However we are not living on a mountain top with our guru, practicing Yoga every morning and mediating for 5 hours a day. We are living in bustling cities. We have jobs, responsibilities and busy lives.
This whole conversation got me thinking about the 3 Gunas which I remember reading about many years ago from the first Yoga book I ever had. "The New Book of Yoga" - from the Sivanada Yoga Centre.
So what are the Gunas? Basically the Gunas are three different types of energy. All three of these energies are present within us and our enviroment. The book above has a beautiful explanation of how this applies to apples.
Sattvic - Purity
Rajasic - Passion
Tamasic - Inertia
“The Gunas ... successively dominate, support, activate, and interact with each other. Sattva is buoyant and shining. Rajas is stimulating and moving. Tamas is heavy and enveloping.” - Ishvarakrishna Samkhyakarika,
I really loved learning about the Gunas and using them to identify different aspects of myself such as environment, food and lifestyle choices I make . For example I know I have a lot of rajasic qualities, I'm very passionate about things, I love tea,coffee and salty food. I'm pretty hyperactive and have crazy energy sometimes almost burning myself out. So I know I need to nuture other sides of myself. Eating healthy foods and slowing down can help me be more grounded and relaxed.
Remembering that all three qualities are present in all things and anyone in excess could bring us way off balance. I don't think Tamasic is bad and Sattvic is good and Rajasic is something in between they just are what they are. To me they are useful and a simple way to look at things to help make healthy and positive choices in our lives.
In terms of food choices, I think it is pretty much common sense. Wholefoods and vegetables give us energy. Spicy, salty food might make us more 'spicy' and passionate, arousing the senses (especially the taste buds!). Heavy foods, alcohol and eating too much can make us sluggish and lazy. But as our dad says....
A little bit of everything is okay. - Tswayuki Saotome
Thanks for reading. We love to hear what you think about this post. You can leave comments below.
Feeling a little nervous about attending your first ever Yoga class? No worries! Checkout our top tips for attending your first Yoga class.
Thanks for Reading!
If you found this useful or have any other Yoga related questions. Please leave comments below.