Yoga-to breathe

That’s it, there’s no hiding it – you’re alive and yoga-to breathe.
Seriously though, have you ever stopped to think about how important breathing is? One could probably survive a few days without food and water but die or suffer permanent brain damage within a few minutes of not breathing.
Breath is mentioned throughout every part of yoga. I mean, there’s even a whole part of yoga just dedicated to breathing techniques (pranayama). But even in meditation or physical practice, there’s so much attention given to breath. And it’s even more apparent after attending this teacher’s training course.
There’s so much emphasis on knowing when to instruct “inhale” and when to instruct “exhale” as a yoga teacher. It’s quite annoying when you’re trying to memorise it from a manual, but it makes a lot of difference for the students. I say that from experience – it’s so much easier to inhale into a backbend, and so much easier to exhale as your chaturanga. It just makes sense. And it’s also a good reminder to any practitioner to keep breathing. As a dancer, it’s actually very common to be so caught up with the steps and forget to breathe; and it really doesn’t help with our stamina or our appearance, it actually makes our movements look very stiff. But now, I’m guessing that it’ll only be natural for me to start matching movements with my inhalations and exhalations, and be more aware about breath in general.
Throat breathing (ujjayi, a type of pranayama), thoracic breathing, stomach (diaphragm) breathing and clavicular breathing. I’ve only thought about breathing as inhaling through your nose and exhaling with your mouth. But it’s so much more than that. “In yoga, breath is equally as important – sometimes even more important – as the physical pose” (Frothingham, Scott. “Benefits of Ujjayi breathing and how to do it”. 17 December, 2019.) One of the very first things I learnt in this course was throat breathing (Ujjayi) while performing different asanas, which was obviously very new to me. This breathing technique improves concentration, helps to release tension throughout the body and also regulates temperature of the body. I think it’s a great tool to use during physical practice as it keeps the practitioner in a meditative state, helps to deepen the stretch in certain poses and keeps the core warm throughout practice.

Better than the gym

I signed up for a gym membership about a year ago. Oh how I wished I had spent it on more yoga classes. Not that gymming is bad, I’m just saying that yoga seems way more efficient to me.
You see, upon arriving at the gym, you still have to warm up and start your reps with a low weight, then gradually increase the weight. Typically, I’d say I used to spend at least 2 hours in the gym to work out 2 muscle groups. A yoga class is about an hour’s long – including warmup up, and you get to work your whole body. It’s efficient and it gets the job done. Even in a simple sun salutation, I can increase my heart rate to supply more oxygen to my muscles, mobilise my joints to get it to produce protective synovial fluid and ease my body into stretches. As for the gym, I would probably have to run to get my heart rate up, then do some stretching and joint articulations at the side before finally moving on to a station.
Another reason I find yoga to be more appealing than the gym is simply because it’s a “kill two birds with one stone” situation. With yoga, you gain flexibility and strength. In the gym, all you get is strength and tight, chunky muscles that would probably make you scream when massaged. Well, if that’s the aesthetic you’re going for, you do you honey. But… wouldn’t it be a better flex to be strong AND flexible at the same time? Look, there’s a reason why someone could look really buff and have 6 pack abs and still not be able to do what we do here in yoga; and I’m not just talking about flexibility. Yoga targets the deep muscles of the body, or what you call the true muscles of the body. These muscles are the muscles that stabilise you and allow you to do some pretty cool party moves to show off (rather than just lifting your shirt and flexing your bicep).
And now the best for the last – yoga caters to everybody and is suitable for even the elderly, or people with injuries and medical conditions.

Planet Ohm

What’s the first few things that come to your mind when you’re asked to think of yoga? For most people, they’d probably think of flexible people with colourful mats, lululemon or cotton on leggings and the famous “ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm”.
Well, I used to be one of them. And I used to think it was pointless.
Then I learnt that the sound “ohm” isn’t just some random sound that someone 5000 years ago came up with – it’s the very sound of everything. It’s a primal sound – it’s everywhere. It’s the vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature (432 Hertz). It’s ohmmmmmnipresent! (I hope you laughed)
More importantly, it represents being away from the past, present and future. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve probably heard your instructor saying something like, “relax your mind”. That’s because yoga believes in the removal of consciousness, mind and thought (Chithr Vriti Niroda). Wait… how is that even possible?
Honestly, I don’t know. But here’s how I like to think of it – you are now on planet Ohm. On this planet, time doesn’t exist, it’s just space. When time isn’t known in your vocabulary, it’ll then be possible to be away from your past, present and future. In other words, your mind won’t be able to associate yourself with any memory or knowledge. You would be removed from your mind, your consciousness, your thoughts.
So while this may seem completely impossible here on earth, it’s all possible on planet Ohm. The mind does wonders…so how about letting it wander off (no pun intended) to planet Ohm and away from everything?nn

Yoga wifi

We all know it as Yoga. It’s derived from the word, “Yuj” , in Sanskrit – a traditional language that dates back to 5000 years ago. “Yuj” means to yoke, or in other words, to unite.
In my words however, I’d like to think of it as a connection – like an internet connection (because I’m young and having a strong internet connection is important to me and it makes me feel at ease)
Yoga is the union of physical, mental and spiritual practices to build the connection between the body, mind and spirit. Prior to practicing and involving myself in yoga, I have never believed in the importance of this connection. Like, how was this possible in any way? And even if it was, what good would it do for me anyway?
I took this course because I was in a bad place. I wanted to get out of my headspace and get back in shape before my school started (I’m a dance student). So this yoga intensive seemed like an attractive commitment to take up during my holidays, as I knew that committing to it would force me out of bed and stop me from sleeping in the shadows of my thoughts. It would help me to get fit, and possibly get me a teaching certificate, I can’t ask for more.
Somehow, unknowingly, I began to feel better as we practised various pranayamas (breathing techniques), meditation and yoga flows / poses. I never really believed in breathing techniques or meditation, simply because of how impatient and restless I am as a person. But practising the very 3 practices of yoga has captivated me in a way I’d never imagined. This feeling of being so in tune with your own body and just the sense of connection allowed me to feel a way I have never felt before. I’m not saying that I’m happy all the time now, I’m not saying that I’ve really changed as a person. But those who have been with me throughout this journey have also started to see something different about me – some say I seem “brighter” or “lighter”, but most tell me “I don’t know, you just seem different. Like, in a good way”. So while I can’t find the right words to describe my experience in what may just be a glimpse of finding the connection between my body, mind and spirit, the best analogy I can think of would be a teenager, in a room with a good (or at least stable) internet connection. A full 3 bars.