Thursday, November 17, 2011
Guest Post "Breathing Yoga" by Joe Lopez
Today we are featuring a guest post by Joe Lopez of Purple Cat Yoga. He has kindly taken the time to write this wonderful article for us about breathing yoga. If you have been pondering trying yoga, read this article and enjoy exploring the topic. Maybe you can incorporate yoga into your regular exercise routines. Please also check out Joe's bio at the end of the article and check out his interesting and informative site, Purple Cat Yoga.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve heard a lot of excuses for why people can’t do yoga. It doesn’t fit into their schedule because of work, kids, school, church, their extensive collection of rare and ornate action figures that must be cataloged. I’ve heard people say they can’t do yoga because they’re too old, too fat, too weak, too uncoordinated, too drunk. Yoga’s too expensive. They aren’t flexible. They don’t have a mat. Their pastor forbids it.
But try this: first, sit up straight. Lengthen your spine to reach the crown of your head upward. At the same time, feel your sit bones root into whatever you’re sitting on. Take a deep inhale. Then exhale.
Take another deep inhale, without strain and without lifting your shoulders. As you exhale, let your shoulder blades melt down your back.
Take another deep inhale, and another exhale.
In a moment, I’ll ask you to close your eyes. When I do, close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths, letting the inhales and the exhales be of equal length (for a slow count of four, for example). Try to avoid reading ahead to find out where all this is leading. Take just this approximately one minute to breathe deeply. Let your attention focus on the rhythm of breathing as it moves through your body, expanding your ribcage, puffing up your belly as you inhale, pressing your navel back toward your spine as your ribs contract on the exhale. Keep your attention on each long, slow breath.
Okay. Close your eyes for 10 steady, slow breaths.
As you open your eyes, see if you can maintain this steady breath. See if you can sustain it at least to the end of this article.
Congratulations. You’re doing yoga.
This does not discriminate on the basis of age, fitness level, experience or flexibility. You can do it without a mat. You can practice it with your cat. You can do it while you eat green eggs and ham. And I don’t imagine God would deny you the gift of breath.
I grant you, breathing doesn’t delve immediately into the deeper practices, philosophies and epiphanies of yoga. Initially, it seems, perhaps, a little absurd that something this easy, this natural, could even be considered in the same league as, say, Uttanasana, Astavakrasana, or Eka Pada Sirsasana (Standing Forward Bend, Eight-Angle Pose, and One Foot Behind the Head Pose, respectively). Not to mention that claiming this level of simplicity is practicing yoga seems dismissive of the vast literary, traditional, historical, mythological and cultural wealth and depth of what is possible to experience when one embarks on the yogic path.
Even so, breath runs through it all, just as it runs through all of life. The steady control and witness of one’s breath is the beginning and constant companion of the yoga practice, regardless of one’s proficiency or knowledge base.
Take one last, deep inhale as you expand your lungs. Slowly and gently release your navel back toward your spine.
Enjoy your breath. Enjoy your yoga.
Joe Lopez, RYT, has been teaching for nearly two years after receiving his 200 hour certification from Corepower Yoga in Boulder, CO. In February, 2010, he took over instruction with Denver Nude Yoga, where he taught until May of 2011. Joe currently teaches Hatha Flow and Vinyasa classes at the University of Washington IMA Center and 5focus Movement Studio in Seattle, WA, where he encourages his students to explore their practice with humor, playfulness and curiosity, while bringing total attentiveness, tinged with gratitude, to each moment. For more information about Joe and his company Purple Cat Yoga, please visit www.purplecatyoga.com.