So, I have not been writing as many blogs as intended when I created this aspect of my website. Recently someone looked at my website and messaged me that they were reading my blog, and do you want to know what actually went through my head? "Someone is actually reading my blog!?!?!" :) Regardless if they get read or not, I am committed to 'blogging' more frequently. As my first blog mentioned, I do not see myself as a writer in any form, so perhaps that is what has been holding me back... who knows?!?
The power of the breath, so simple, yet so complex. The breath is such an important aspect of yoga, the number one principle, yet is so lost in today's yoga world (an entirely other blog for another time). It is quite common for new students to my yoga classes to mention that I work with the breath more than they have ever done in a single drop-in yoga class - no matter how long they have practiced. I know other teachers teach breath work and pranayama, but I also know that a large percentage of the classes simply say "Breathe in... breathe out."
"Breathe in... breathe out..." Really!?!? What does that teach? We breathe every day. When I first mention to someone (particularly new to yoga or any mindfulness practice) the power of the breath, they look at me like I'm crazy. Right... they breathe every day without thinking about it, so how can the breath have any power other than keeping us alive. Prana. In those classes where the instructor guides the breath as "breathe in... breathe out...'' they are at least creating an awareness of breath an movement. Great. Awesome. Fantastic. That's a start. But that's not yoga, as the science it was intended. That is not teaching someone to breathe correctly - and yes I'm using the word correctly. Some say there is no wrong or no right in yoga. Though I see where that comes from, and honor that in certain principles, I also disagree.
There are physiologically correct ways of respiration - to come from a completely scientific perspective. For yogic breathing, we must have this natural breath be our base before we begin to do something different, and the majority of our society struggles with this basic diaphragmatic breath. Additionally, the natural breath is shallow/quick, which is fine, and actually helpful in deep meditations. However, keeping the quick breath and simply breathing more air (the common breathe in and out with fast or slow movements) is not working with the breath, and actually has an opposite effect on the nervous system than what is intended. The fight or flight system is actually ignited rather than the parasympathetic nervous system. What do you do when someone says, take a deep breath? Most common - it's quick, in the chest. This does not invoke the relaxation response, but actually can create more anxiety and panic and can activate the fight or flight response. Now, there are specific times we can use this type of breath for an entirely different reason, but that is when there is an understanding of breath, bandha, vayus, and the energetics of breath work.
The basic most important step in beginning breathwork, particularly with yoga, is learning how to slow down the breath with diaphragmatic breath. How slow can you breathe in with your belly expanding out as you breathe in, and how slow can you breathe out as your belly drawing slightly in? For most, even some who have practiced what they call "yoga" for 10+ years, this is extremely challenging - yet it is the core, the base starting point.
Then there is truly the breath leading the movement, rather than the movement leading the breath!?!?! :) Another blog, another time. Happy day!