The whole of our lives is center on the breath, yet the breath is something we rarely, if ever indeed, 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. Placing proper attention on breathing can begin a beautiful transformation within the body.
Yoga treats the body as an integrated whole, emphasizing connecting movements with breath.
Unlike the many misconceptions about yoga, it is not just stretching, nor does one need to be flexible to practice. All one has to do is show up and BREATHE. Yoga is that simple. Breathe. Move. Connect. Whether Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga, or any other kind of yoga, the premise will always remain the same: breath.
- Two of the most popular yoga styles 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 flow through the instructor’s movements 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 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 slower than Power Yoga and is excellent for therapeutic and strengthening purposes. Every movement synchronizes with the breath. Hatha is great for those who enjoy a slow and steady practice.
I like to use the mind’s analogy in the classes I teach, like a fireworks display: thoughts going off like crazy, sometimes without much direction. Yoga helps quiet 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. A consistent yoga practice’s excellent side effect is a peaceful mind and a healthy, 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.
Proper 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 life.
By Sylvia Morales
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