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Yoga Insights

Explore the Effects of Your Breath

Breathing is a subtle process that occurs every minute of every day, yet we often take it for granted. The breath is actually a very powerful tool that we can use in various ways to enhance our yoga practice.

Our lungs are large air sacs, each one approximately the size of a football. When we fill them with air, they give us a sense of buoyancy. If you’ve ever floated on your back in a pool, a lake, or in the ocean, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to stay afloat when your lungs are filled with air. You can use this same sense of buoyancy when practicing asanas.

In poses like Energizing Breath, Triangle, or the Warrior poses, we raise the arms on an inhalation. Visualize your lungs as they expand in all directions and notice how this makes lifting the arms almost effortless. As you hold your arms up, notice how each inhalation makes your arms feel lighter, your lungs supporting the lift of your arms. As you lower your arms with the exhalation, releasing the air from the lungs allows them to drift down naturally to your sides.

In this week’s asana, Cross Leg Pose, I also explain how you can use the breath to help deepen the pose.

Breathing can also be instrumental in enhancing our meditation. Using the breath (and Yoga Sound) as we meditate, really helps to focus the mind and keep it from wandering. You can practice Yoga Sound Meditation with Breathing along with me on my website.

Yoga is a journey. I hope you’ll continue to explore for yourself the different ways that the breath can enhance your yoga, whether you’re doing asanas, relaxation, meditation, or yoga breathing on its own.

Let Your Poses Blossom from Within

If you want to really enjoy and advance in your asana practice, it’s important to feel what you’re doing, not just on the level of what muscles are stretching or strengthening, but on a deeper level. You’ll want to experience your fullest expression of each pose. This doesn’t mean pushing as hard as you can to move further into a pose so that it looks a particular way—that can actually get in the way. Like expressing an idea or an artistic concept, this comes from the inside.

Calming the Mind in Asana Practice

At the beginning of an asana practice, it’s nice to draw your awareness inward, focusing on the body and the breath for a few moments. This calm focus is an essential part of yoga. Once we’re practicing the asanas, however, it’s common for the mind to wander. It’s not that we necessarily start thinking about other things on purpose, but the mind wanders nonetheless.

Asana Practice After Injury

No one likes to get injured. Injuries not only hurt, but they can also prevent you from doing what you love to do for days, weeks, or even months. If practicing yoga asanas is one of those things, having to give up some of your favorite poses can be a real challenge. Don’t despair! Yoga is so versatile that there are still several poses and techniques you may be able to do while injured.

Simple Inversions

Advanced inversions such as Headstand, Shoulderstand, and Plough have widely touted benefits, yet they’re not for everyone. Because they can place a lot of pressure on your neck, the risk of injury often outweighs the benefits they can bring. Doing them properly requires significant flexibility and strength. So please be cautious and don’t feel that you have to add them to your asana repertoire. In fact, there are several other safe and simple inversions that bring similar benefits without the risks.

Where We Get Our Protein Matters

One of the main things I hear when people talk about cutting meat out of their diets is that they’re afraid they won’t get enough protein. But so many foods in a vegetarian yoga diet pack a protein punch—beans, nuts, whole grains, tofu, in addition to a variety of plant-based “chicken” strips, tofurky, veggie burgers, and other mock meats that are now widely available.

Balancing Poses

I find balancing poses fun. It’s always a challenge to see how well I can balance on a particular day because not all days are the same. Some days it comes easy, other days, it can seem almost impossible to balance for more than a few seconds.

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