Breathe, Move, Connect
The whole of our lives are centered on the breath, yet the breath is something we rarely, if ever truly, pay attention to. The breath serves as our barometer throughout life. We tend to breathe mindlessly. However, none of our daily functions would be possible without a single breath. When proper attention is placed on breathing, a beautiful transformation within the body begins.
Yoga treats the body as an integrated whole, placing emphasis on connecting movements with breath. Unlike the many misconceptions about yoga, it is not just stretching nor does one need to be flexible in order to practice. All one has to do is show up and BREATHE. Yoga is that simple. Breathe. Move. Connect. Whether it is Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga or any other kind of yoga, the premise will always remain the same: BREATHE.
Two of the most popular styles of yoga are Vinyasa Yoga (also known as Power Yoga) and Hatha Yoga. Power Yoga is lively, energetic and physically challenging. It incorporates a series of Sun Salutations that flows through movements designed by the instructor to strengthen and stretch the entire body while simultaneously helping to quiet the monkey-mind. Sun Salutations are a series of planks, pushups, downward dogs and lunges. The planks and pushups are great for building upper body strength. Downward dog is excellent for decompressing the spine and stretching the hamstrings and calves. Lunges are great for strengthening the quadriceps, gluteus maximus and hip flexors. The intensity of the poses linked with the breath helps to clear the mind, bringing the practitioner into the present moment. It also promotes strength, stability and flexibility, and helps return the body to a state of peace, harmony, health and overall well being.
Hatha Yoga is gentler and progresses at a slower pace than Power Yoga and is great for restorative and strengthening purposes. Every movement is also synchronized with the breath. Hatha is great for those who enjoy a slow and steady practice.
In the classes I teach, I like to use the analogy of the mind being like a fireworks display: thoughts going off like crazy, sometimes without much direction. Yoga helps quell the crazy. It helps get practitioners into their bodies to see how they feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Because the breath is our barometer, it helps bring that attention inward. The great side effect of a consistent yoga practice is a peaceful mind and a strong, lean and toned body.
Paying attention to the breath must not stop once we leave the mat, so I encourage people to take the peace they feel on the mat, off the mat as well. True health comes from within and being healthy is no longer just about being physically fit. It is about treating the entire body, mind and soul well for an overall sense of well being. By learning to connect with your breath as you move, not only will your physical appearance change, but you will have a deeper and more profound appreciation for your body and for life.