It's National Yoga Month, so I thought I'd follow up FAQ Yoga Class Questions with something basic (yet difficult to remember)- the breath. When practicing yoga, the presence of the breath is vital. I mean it kind of seems funny that I say that, as yoga and the breath go hand in hand, but breathing consciously is not something we're used to, and thus, our breath gets away from us in practice more often than we'd care to admit. Here are a few key points to keep in mind during your practice:
1. The breath should initiate the physical movement. As you inhale, you move. Think of the breath as fuel for a car. You cannot go anywhere without the fuel.
2. The breath should be heard. In yoga, we practice ujjayi breathing. It is the sound you hear when you put a shell to your ear. It's audible, powerful, full and constant.
3. Make your inhales and exhales equal length. The tendency is to focus on the inhale, but the exhale is just as important and as powerful as the inhale. You inhale and get into a pose, exhale and go deeper into the pose.
4. Use your lungs. Ah, another thing that sounds sort of ridiculous seeing how we are always breathing, but tell me- how often do we actually think about using our lungs? Breathing is subconscious in our daily lives, and we therefore don't use our lungs the way that perhaps we should. If you focus right now, quickly, on how you're breathing, you may find that you're moving slightly up and down. Do your shoulders lift towards your ears slightly on the inhale? Focus on filling up the lungs in their entirety. Envision the ribcage and chest expand out instead of up.