Lest We Forget to Breathe

I’ve been thinking about Yoga, did I mention that already?  My wife tells me that Piglet definitely wants me to teach some classes and so now not only am I constantly thinking about Yoga but I’m constantly thinking about what to say about it.  Once again, for the record, I am not a certified teacher.  I want to be and will be once I’ve saved enough pennies to fund such an endeavor but that is still a future thing.

I think that any student of Yoga needs to first learn four things:

  1. What is Yoga?
  2. The Yamas
  3. How to breathe
  4. Body mind awareness

What is Yoga?

Yoga is union.  Union of what?  The union of body, mind and spirit.  Just discussing Yoga could take hours and is itself Svaadhyaya.  There are eight limbs to Yoga:  Yama which forms the great Vow, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.  What it is not is a bunch of people piled into a room twisting themselves into various shapes.  While that can be a part of it, that is not the sum total of Yoga.

The Yamas

I think it important to review the five Yamas because they are the ground rules for everything that is Yoga.  Ahimsa—no violence—is vital as it is important for the beginning yogi to remember that injuring oneself is in exact contradiction of this Yama just as injuring another person would be.  Satya—truth—is needed between everyone involved.  Asteya—no stealing—in any class setting this is important and not just on the don’t take what isn’t yours level.  Interrupting class is stealing time from everyone present.  Brahmacharya—continence/chastity/fidelity—is a great safety net for teacher and student alike.  If one does not practice brahmacharya then there is a great likelihood one will fail at asteya, satya and ahimsa.  Finally, Aparigraha—no greed—without this competition arises on many levels, any of which is detrimental to the entire group.

How to Breathe

It is amazing how easy it is to forget to breathe and how many do not even know how to breathe!  I, supposedly, know both to breathe and how to breathe and yet I still find myself holding my breath or breathing shallowly.  The easiest, in my mind, way to remember to breathe is to think of filling a sack with apples.  The apples fill the bottom of the sack first and then the rest of the sack expands.  So it is with our breathing, expand the belly so the lungs can expand toward the belly first and then expand the chest to finish filling the sack.  To exhale just reverse the process just like taking the apples back out, you have to work from the top down.  Also, breathing is such a key part of the Asanas.  Just as a quick example, trying to inhale and touch your toes at the same time and then try the same thing while exhaling.

Body Mind Awareness

So many of us are so caught up in rushing about here and there that we have forgotten how to listen to our bodies.  Stand tall in tadasana, your arms hand loose at your side, your feet are well ground and your shoulders are relaxed.  Great!  What about your buttocks, thighs, hamstrings and calves?  I’ll bet that at least your buttocks are tensed if not more of your leg muscles and I’ll bet further that you weren’t aware of that.  I know I am constantly having to dive back in and find my body awareness during my asana practice and I am always finding this or that bunch of muscles tightened when they have no reason to be anything but relaxed.

Two final thoughts tonight:  First, I need to make notes and if you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment or three.  Second, I love Yoga.  It grounds me, slows me down and helps me to fully experience each moment of my life or at least more of the moments of my life.