Wednesday, February 22, 2012


More than how deep you go in the postures, the essence of yoga lies in the breath.  If you can breathe, you can do yoga.  Get to know your breathing intimately.  Better even than your best friend, know that your breath will always be there for you as you move through life.  Good breathing is reassuring, soothing, and healing.  It will bring your postures alive.  Reconnecting with your natural breath will bring feelings of cleansing, lightness, and clarity.  Holding the breath dulls awareness, creates tension, and impedes the feeling of flowing freedom that yoga brings to the bodymind.  Conscious breathing within each posture keeps the mind alert and lets your practice be exploratory rather than routine.  Conscious breathing with each posture will draw your mind to the present moment.  Distractions are minimized once the mind is reined in and it becomes easier to find the essence of yoga - mastery of the mind and reconnection with yourself.

As your breathing becomes more conscious, you'll find it a useful tool to measure your proficiency in a posture.  Once your breath stays steady, your asana practice moves closer to perfection.  Let your breath be round and smooth during your asana practice.  Should the breath cease to flow naturally and become jagged, jerky or forced, take it as a sign to ease off on the intensity of your practice.  Incorporate Warming Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) into your posture work.  A warmiing breath is one that stokes the internal fire and warms the system.  The steady, pleasant sound of warming breath provides a point of focus for the mind and  prevents it from dancing away.

If using Warming Breath becomes difficult, or if you feel it creates stress in the system, return to steady natural breathing.  Should you notice that your breath freezes and you forget to breathe out, use circular breathing - a flowing sort of breathing where the breath is not held and there is no long pause between the inhalation and exhalation, or between the exhalation and inhalation.  Remember not to hold your breath in.  Holding your breath is part of the natural startle reflex, and something that happens often as students find themselves in a new and strange yoga position.

Breathing through the mouth is rarely done during yoga practice.  Breathing through the nose filters and warms the air before it enters the lungs.  Let your breathing become intuitive but, in general, inhale when opening or unfolding the body, when you come up out of a pose, when raising the arms, or while twisting the upper back, or expanding the chest such as when bending backward.  Most people find that exhalation comes naturally when moving downward, lowering the arms or legs, bending forward or sideways, or twisting the lower back.

Source from The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown