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The Importance of Yoga & Breathing

Posted on 29/07/2019

yoga and breathing

Yoga is a scientific system of physical and mental practices that originated in India more than three thousand years ago. Its purpose is to help each one of us achieve our highest potential and to experience health and happiness. With Yoga, we can extend our healthy, productive years far beyond ‘the norm’ and, at the same time, improve the quality of our lives. Mind. Body. Spirit.

The Yoga that forms the main focus of teaching is called Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga begins by working with the body on a structural level, helping to align the vertebrae, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles and connective tissue. At the same time, internal organs are toned and rejuvenated; the epidermal, digestive, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems are purified of toxins and waste matter, the nervous and endocrine systems are balanced and toned; and brain cells are nourished and stimulated. The end result is increased mental clarity, emotional stability, and a greater sense of overall well being.

It is important to remember that Yoga is not just a slow motion calisthenics workout or superficial exercise routine. Anyone who practices correctly soon begins to appreciate the depth and breadth of its benefits.

I often remind my students not to force or strain themselves. Yoga is not a contest or a quick fix.  Yoga favours quiet, consistent practice over theatrical displays and superficial accomplishments, we do not invite egos in the practice of yoga. It does not require that we transform ourselves overnight into something beyond our capacity. Yoga begins by accepting our limitations, whatever they may be, and working with this self acceptance from the start. In our daily practice, we gradually learn to go beyond our limitations, this is the way real and lasting progress is possible.  Our yoga practice is a forever, be patient.  Our practice will never be perfect is it a lifetime of practice,

Asana literally means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. According to an ancient and authoritative text, an asana is “a particular posture of the body, which is both steady and comfortable.” Postures form the basis of Yoga’s mind-body connection. With hundreds of c;assical poses, with as many variations, can be divided into two categories: active and passive. Active poses tone specific muscle and nerve groups, benefit organs and endocrine glands, and activate brain cells. The passive poses are mainly in meditation, relaxation, and pranayama practices, such Yin. The complete set of Yoga asanas covers the entire human anatomy, literally from the top of the head to the tips of the toes.

The greatest benefit from practicing asanas comes when we learn how to relax in a given pose. Contrary to what most of us have been taught, real relaxation results from a state of deep concentration, where the mind is totally focused on a single object. Vision, or your breath. During the practice of yoga your object of focus is your body. We as students focus on our mind on our inhale and exhale breaths, the steady flexion and extension of different muscle groups, or other bodily senses. Ideally this inward focus should be maintained throughout the entire Yoga class.  When we lose our focus it is impartant to acknowledge this and simply come back to our body and breath.  Reiterating here that our practice is simply that, a practice.

Pranayama is the science of breathing. Breath is the main source of nourishment for the cells of the body. We can live without food for weeks, without water for days, but without oxygen for only a few minutes. The average person uses only about 1/7 of his total lung capacity. By learning how to increase this capacity with deep abdominal breathing, with particular pranayama practices, we can increase the flow of energy to different organs in our bodies, build our immunity to disease, and overcome many physical illnesses.

The way we breathe also has a HUGE effect on the nervous system. Our brain cells use three times more oxygen than other body cells. By regulating the breath and increasing oxygen to brain cells, we help to strengthen and revitalise both the voluntary and autonomic nervous systems. When practiced consistently, pranayama also has a powerful stabilising effect on the mind and emotions.

We start every Yoga class with a pranayama practice in order to prepare students for the asanas that follow. Pranayama and asanas work hand in hand to create a mind and body connection to balance and integrate different physiological functions and to help the relieve of emotional and negative periods or habits patterns that can block the flow of vital energy within the body.

Deep relaxation is traditionally the conclusion and peak of every Yoga session. During a 10 – 20 minutes of complete silence and immobility, deep relaxation allows the body to absorb all the benefits of the previous asanas, pranayama, and cleansing practices. Savasana!

In life, it is necessary to learn how to relax after a period of activity. People spend approximately one third of their time asleep, trying to recover the energy they expended during the day. Unfortunately, many never achieve full recovery because they haven’t learned the how to relax. Relaxation practices in Yoga are different than sleeping, but their benefits are similar, and the idea of deep relaxation can be applied with the same effect to our sleeping hours as well as our waking ones. When properly done, deep relaxation can become a powerful meditation practice that helps to anchor and stabilise the mind’s awareness in a deep state and peace.

Now you see the profound effects that yoga and breathing as on our life.  Get involved and if you are already involved amazing and I hope you have found what I have found through the power of the practice.  Life changing.


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