From Jane Hart, our newest yoga instructor:
When I first started taking YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) class, my amazing teacher, Brian, asked us to write down two things: 1. What is your definition of yoga and 2. What is your intention for this training? For me, it is breathing purposefully to quiet my mind, loving the person I was created to be, and being strong from the inside out. My hope was to love myself more, learn how to let things go, and to teach others how to do the same. What I originally thought about yoga, over the fifteen years of practicing on and off, was that I did not like it at all! I tried different classes and several instructors. But I never had a teacher. You may ask ‘What is the difference’? An instructor calls out asanas (poses), moves quickly with no explanation, and seems to have very little knowledge of the real meaning of yoga. Brian taught me to cue my students into every asana and when we attained the position, he would tell us the name of the pose just in case we wanted to know it. He never left anyone behind. He would walk around the room making adjustments because he did not want us to injure ourselves. However, the most important thing he taught me was how to breathe. It seemed silly. I thought to myself ‘we are already breathing’. But instead he taught me how to get away from the noise in my head, how to focus on myself in a loving way, and join my mind, body, and spirit. Below is the ‘why’ I learned to breathe deeply.
Benefits of deep breathing – The sympathetic nervous system accelerates the heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and raises blood pressure when the body is challenged or stressed. The breath becomes short and rapid and one’s anxiety will increase. This is referred to as fight, flight, or freeze reaction.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate, increase intestinal and glandular activity, and relaxes and soothes all muscles – REST & DIGEST.
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system commonly referred to as rest, digest, and relaxation. Some of the benefits from deep controlled breathing are:
~Calms and quiets the mind (improves decision making skills)
~Lowers heart rate
~Reduces and helps one manage anxiety
~Oxygenates the blood vessels (oxygen deprivation creates anxiety and brain fog)
~Improves the ability to concentrate and focus the mind on one point (stay on task)
~Increases body awareness (body language, nervous habits)
~Improves confidence (increased ability to convey or emphasize a point without running out of breath)
~Relaxes muscles while stretching
~A way to self soothe
~Creates a connection with the present moment
~Can help one remain calm while going through a challenging situation
My concentration is in Vinyasa flow and Ujjayi breathing technique, which I will describe the breathing below. As you may have read in my previous post, I was confused about the real meaning of yoga until I began practicing with my fabulous teacher, Brian. I will share with you below what he taught us about Ujjayi breathing and the Goal of Yoga.
The goal of yoga . . . no, it’s not a handstand. The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal.
The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. The goal is to love . . . well, you. Shift your focus and your heart will grow. Namaste, Brian.
I teach students how to breathe at the beginning of each class. Even if you already know this technique it helps to center you for the rest of our practice together. The breath is the main part while asanas (poses) are simply the movements we add with our bodies. Pranayama is the part of yoga that includes different systems of breathing. Prana translates as “life force”. It can also be described as our spirit and soul. The breathing technique I teach in my classes is called Ujjayi Pranayama. It is controlling the breath to create a sound like the waves of the ocean as you inhale and exhale. This is done by shaping the back of the throat to sound like you are fogging up your glasses when you exhale, and you continue to inhale the same way. Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower stomach, then rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening is part of the purpose of Ujjayi. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration and are controlled in a manner that causes no distress to the student. I would love for you to come to one of my classes, not only to teach you this technique but also how to connect your mind, body, and spirit through Hatha yoga. Peace & Love.