Breathing: yoga in your own backyard



These days we hear all about yoga… power yoga, hot yoga, urban yoga, sports yoga, yoga for golfers, tennis players, swimmers, runners, walkers, sleepers, children, seniors, naked yoga; and the list goes endlessly on and on.

If you are a senior and you are just waking up to the realization that you can no longer bend over to tie your shoelace or hook your Velcro, you might also be wondering how you could ever imagine yourself doing this highly popularized craze that dates back to ancient India, or where you might even be able to fit in attempting some of those pretzel-like exercises called Yoga.

I have been doing yoga since I was nineteen and now I am in my SIXTIES.  To my amazement in the last 20 years, yoga trends have moved from a quiet, hidden, thoughtful approach to a very aggressive, highly competitive, aerobic sweat shop that has hit every spa and health club in every town and city in the USA. People curious about yoga are finding it very intimidating to enter an overheated, overcrowded yoga class that is more like boot camp than what the yogis of India intended in their quest for deeper inner truth and health through a daily yoga practice.

How is a seasoned citizen who is curious to experience the benefits that yoga has traditionally promoted and is presently claiming as a national cure-all find a friendly and tangible approach to practicing yoga in today’s highly competitive yoga climate?

I am encouraging every person looking to begin yoga to find the most available source of yoga that we have every minute of the day and that is your breath.

Respiration means to inspire again and again from within;

bringing spirit back to the body for renewal over and over again.

Breathing is our gift of life that does not discriminate.  Beggars on the street, Wall Street traders, or yoga masters equally have the opportunity to open up that magic window to breath.

We take our breathing for granted,  until we find that we are easily out of breath doing daily activities, where in the past the same activity would not have even fazed us.

The yoga practice of breathing awareness ( Pranayama) is simply becoming more aware of your breath and of the magical effects that deep breathing brings to your body, your energy, and to your mind. This simple practice will reveal how deep breathing is the foundation of health as well as the gateway for entering into the beginning stages of practicing the health restoring art of yoga.

So many students avoid breathing practice in classes and many teachers fail to teach it because it continues to remain one of the mysterious and subtle practices of yoga.  I believe that

there is no mystery to the breath. The real mystery is why most people have such shallow breathing.

In oriental study of health and healing, the emotion connected to the Lungs is deep grief.  Deep grief and sadness may begin at a very young age or sneak up on us as we get older as we accumulate more and more disappointments.

Reacting to deep grief our posture reflects this attitude as sunken chest, rounded shoulders, and a collapsed upper back. In turn causing degrees of neck tension, headaches,  and back pain affecting the ability to stand up straight which adds to lack of breath capacity.

It’s a Catch 22 when these muscles are so tight that breathing very difficult, and if you don’t breathe fully the muscles remain tight.

When a student begins to practice deep breathing, they can quickly feel the subtle affects of a deeper breath.  If  you are not used to breathing fully you may experience some discomfort in the beginning stages but quickly your body will accept the powerful movement from each inhalation.

The practice of deep breathing can turn this physical and emotional challenge around.  Breathing in a calm rhythm can change your emotional state and at the same time emotions will effect your breathing.

I always suggest to my students in the early stages of their yoga practice to “keep it simple.”  Begin with just one pose and notice how one simple pose can make a difference. 

Likewise breathing practice I suggest to first simply become aware of your breath. While walking, in conversation, or at work you have the opportunity to observe the changes in your breathing. Start to notice how breath is affected in different social situations. During conflict and in pleasure watch the changes as your breath reflects your state of mind as it is in that very moment.  

A daily morning practice of 10 minutes of balanced deep breathing, simply inhaling and exhaling, will increase your physical and mental energy. 

The practice of Yoga asanas that create elasticity to the muscles of the ribs, back, chest and open the lungs will open the door for more natural deep breathing.

Begin your breathing awareness exercises lying down on your back. It is helpful to lie on top of a folded blanket under your upper back to give your chest more space. Begin with observing how you breathe. Are you a mouth breather or a nose breather? If you breathe through your mouth it is important to get into the habit of breathing through your nose if possible.

Begin to notice at what point your breath becomes tight. Observe the sound and sensation of the air moving through your lungs. Observe the balance between your inhalation and exhalation. As you relax your shoulders, your jaw, and any other spots that you begin to notice that are tense,  your breathing  will begin to expand and you will find yourself feeling more calm and relaxed. Continue this practice while you experience an easier flow of your breath.

Count the length of your inhale and exhale. The breathing  is simply a complete breath in and a complete breath out. Find a comfortable count for your breathing rhythm. Proceed to inhale and exhale with a workable count. You may begin with a 4 or 6 seconds per breath and after some time and practice you will be able to extend your count as it feels comfortable.  

It is important not to feel any strain while doing your breathing. With regular practice, you will begin to experience an increase in your lung capacity.  As you practice deep breathing, your posture will improve, back aches will begin to disappear, and your mental attitude will be uplifted.

With a deep inhalation, your personal journey with yoga can easily begin regardless of your age, your environment, or your physical limitations. Without intimidation or a flexible body your world will now open and expand with each new breath that you take. This is the simple beginning of a new awareness into the essence that is the support for life itself. Tapping on this doorway can lead to a magical journey into the mysterious world of the unquestionable gift which is the life force that is present and available within each and every one of us.


Some points:

. Observe your breath

. Balance your breath

. Follow your breath from the beginning to the completion

  of each inhale and exhale

. Feel the transformation to a calmer state of mind.

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