Sunday, November 30.

A review!  🙂

At the first class for our December series, we talked about some of the foundations of a Yoga practice, beginning with the idea that the practice is an opportunity to bring awareness into the physical body.  (We often ignore our physical bodies, or we’re at least unaware of them… Which is how we wind up with all kinds of muscle tension, why we can’t relax or sleep well, etc.)  Yoga is an opportunity to listen to your body and see where it is, how it feels, what it has to say right now.

We also talked about the Breath, and how breathing is foundational in Yoga.  In fact, you can have a Yoga practice even if you’re bedridden — Because you can practice pranayama — or breathing exercises.  

We began by learning the dirgha, or 3-part breath: Bringing the breath into the belly first, feeling it gently expand; then into the mid-chest, feeling the rib cage expand in all 4 directions (back, front, side, side); then into the top of the chest near the collarbones, feeling the tips of the lungs coming up beneath the collarbones.  You can also think of this as the three areas of the lungs — The very bottoms of the lungs, the middle area, the very tops.  This may help you visualize bringing all of the oxygen possible into your lungs, especially when you consider that we usually breathe shallow breaths, bringing oxygen only into the tops of our lungs. (As an aside, this kind of breathing naturally amps stress.  In fact, you can increase your anxiety purposely, just by breathing only into the tops of your lungs.  I don’t recommend experimenting though.)  🙂

After the Dirgha 3-part breath, we learned the Ocean-Sounding Breath (Ujjayi), where you breathe with sound, controlling both the inhale and exhale with smooth motions, making that Darth Vader kind of sound.  This kind of breath strengthens the diaphragm (since you must use the diaphragm in order to breathe this way), promotes relaxation, and brings oxygen into your body more efficiently.  Here’s a great quick explanation, taken from about.com:

Another way to think about Ujjayi Breath is to visualize your throat as a garden hose, with the breath passing through like a trickle of water. If you put your thumb partially over the opening of the hose, you increase the power of the water that is coming through. This is the same thing you are doing with your throat during Ujjayi breathing. The air that comes in through your constricted throat is a powerful, directed breath that you can send into the parts of your body that need it during yoga.

After breathing consciously, we moved into some warmups (especially for hips), and then learned Downward-Facing Dog (the upside-down V), Child’s Pose (resting over the knees), Mountain Pose (standing with grounded-ness and awareness), and a modification of Warrior 1 (much like a kneeling lunge, with arms overhead and hands in a temple position).

We ended the practice with the Seated Half-Moon (sitting cross-legged, stretch right arm overhead while leaning to the left, repeat on other side), and then the Supine Spinal Twist (lying down, bent right knee crosses over straight left leg, then you twist the spine to the right, and repeat on other side).  

And of course, the spinal twist was followed by Savasana, Corpse Pose, where we consciously relaxed from head to toe, and allowed ourselves to be still for once.  🙂  Savasana is often the most difficult of all Yoga poses, and it’s certainly one of the most important.  It integrates your physical practice, calms the nervous system, brings the mind to rest, and provides time and space for true relaxation — which is necessary to develop self-compassion, and to maintain a truly healthy body and mind.   

Thank you for practicing!

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