Learning to Breathe (Yoga Challenge: Day 28)

Just a quick one today because it is quite simple.

It all has to do with wishing I had learned something about yoga well before I started the asanas (postures). I was reminded today by a fellow student that was most likely completely unaware of her frantic breath. Now, I have been there before and still fall in to it from time to time. Once I realize it, I can get into Child’s Pose to bring my breath back into rhythm again.

It was a welcome reminder of the importance of breathing through the nose in yoga and filling the lungs and ribcage 360 degrees. Without hearing it from another student, I don’t think I would have come to recognize it so strongly in myself.

Lesson from Day 28

I learned how to breathe in yoga, in this case using the Ujjayi Pranayama, well after I started practising. Now I feel that learning to control the breath should almost be a pre-requisite before actually moving into any postures.  There are many types of breathing patterns or techniques one can use in yoga. Without a deep understanding of these, however, our breath in our asanas becomes laboured and short (and rather frustrating). Sometimes you might as well be trapped under a vehicle. This is not yoga.

So, I encourage you, if you ever feel panicked in your breathing in class, attend a Pranayama workshop or spend some time at home working on your breathing, even just for 10 minutes. I’m no expert, but I also recommend attending a Level 1 Ashtanga Class if you haven’t before. For reasons I have mentioned before, Ashtanga will help you focus on your breath while you move into the postures.

I promise it will elevate your practise hugely.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

 

Finding Aliveness in Our Breath (Yoga Challenge: Day 19)

Have you ever noticed the moment at the end of an exhale before you inhale again?

Today our instructor brought our attention to not only our breath, but the space between breaths. For most of the day, we don’t think about our breathing. It just happens, like blinking and swallowing. But, our breathing is our lifeline – a sure sign that all vital signs are alive and well. Have you ever stopped to think about what this means?

Without the next inhale, we are done. Dead. Kaput.

The line between this life and the next one is as delicate as that.

In yoga, we stop to focus on our breathing and by doing so, we acknowledge our own, mortal existence. Try it: exhale all your breath and in the space at the bottom of your breath, focus on the few moments that you can get away without inhaling. Eventually you will have to breathe in again, but hang out in that space between the exhale and the inhale. What happens?

I find I become completely focused on my presence, my “aliveness” in those very moments. And I must be fully present in order to resist the body’s natural urge to breathe in again.

How might you live your life differently if you were more aware of how miraculous it is that you’re alive in the first place? How would this affect your practise?

Lesson from Day 19

With Ujjayi breathing, we are voluntarily controlling our breath, matching our in-breath with the out-breath. But there is still that space at the bottom and top of each breath, like the silence and nothingness between musical notes in a melody. In those short few moments we can find some stillness. And if we are really moving with our breath, we can find new power with every inhale.

Imagine how your practise will change if you consider that each breath in brings you this expansive power.

—–

I’d love to hear what you have to say, what you’ve gotten out of these posts, and for those of you doing the yoga challenge as well, how the challenge is going for you! Feel free to comment below, post a comment on Facebook, send me a message through Twitter or send me an email.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.


Finding Routine (Yoga Challenge: Day 18)

It should not be challenging to get to your mat. The challenge should begin once you are on your mat.

This is something our instructor spoke about today after class as we were all discussing the benefits of this 30 day yoga challenge. He mentioned that one thing that people often learn with a challenge like this is that it is possible to make time in your day to go to yoga. It’s all just a matter of choice. I find it’s true – before, I would look at my week and see where I could fit a few classes in. Now I look at my week, a week in advance, and decide when I’ll go to yoga. I do this before my week fills up.

I’ve been wondering lately what kind of routine I’ll get into once this yoga challenge is over. While I’d love to have a six day practise, I’m not sure if it’s what’s best for me. I’m a (bit of a) perfectionist and if I set out to go six days and I end up doing four, I might be disappointed in myself. I know I’m better off setting my expectations a bit lower and, if I manage to do six, than all the better. I’m not sure if this defeats the purpose of a disciplined practise. Anyway, I’ll keep thinking about this during the last 12 days of the challenge. My thinking now is that I’ll just try to go as much as possible.

The other area I would like to explore is a home practise. Yes, a home practise! This is a big leap for me. I know the postures and I am excited to begin exploring this option more.

Lesson from Day 18

Whatever I decide to do, the most important thing to keep in mind is that getting to yoga should be the least challenging part of my day. With this challenge I have found that the task of carving yoga into my schedule is no task at all. I simply have to, want to, get there. Once on the mat, I can decide how deep I want to take the practise and what I am searching for that day. This involves checking in with a few areas, such as how I’m feeling, where my balance is at, what the moon cycle is and what I am working through in my life in that moment.

Check in. Where are you at? How will this alter your yoga practise today? Think about it for a bit and then go with the flow.

Yoga today might not go into any postures at all, other than seated Pranayama. And that’s perfectly fine.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

Yoga Off the Mat (Yoga Challenge: Day 6)

Sometimes you have to practise yoga in the strangest of places.

Today it was 30 minutes into a phone call with my cell phone provider after I had already visited the local retail store to see if there was anything they could do to replace my broken cell phone. I was speaking to “Retentions” (because cell phone companies have to have a whole department allocated to dealing with angry customers that might switch to a new provider), who told me in the end that I need to go back to the retail store in town to have my issue resolved. I was now 2 hours into dealing with this problem and had been put on hold 3 times.

If there was any time I needed to put my Pranayama (breath) into practise, it was today.

I was sure to take a deep breath before responding to the poor “Retentions” associate at the other end of the line, who was just dealing with the cell phone company systems she had no control over.

When it was all said and done, I went to a Yin class to stretch the frustration out of me.

Lesson from Day 6

I learned today that it’s OK to ‘need’ to do yoga, even for selfish purposes. I needed to get to that Yin class tonight, not just because it was my last opportunity to get my gold star for Day 6, but because I needed a chill pill. Yoga is a great chill pill if you’re ever feeling stressed at work, had an argument with your partner or feeling overwhelmed with life’s circumstances.

Today I hardly thought about anything beyond the healthy pain of deep tissue stretching.

And I’m over the cell phone fiasco.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.