Yoga: The Whole System
The practice of yoga affects multiple layers of the body-breath-mind-personality-emotional system. In teaching, I use multiple the tools of yoga including a combination of postures, breathing, sound, visualization, and meditation for a holistic yoga model of healing.
Yoga affects our human biological systems including the nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system — fight or flight vs. the parasympathetic nervous system — rest and repose. Through the practice of yoga, the quality of our parasympathetic nervous system shifts as we improve our breathing, reduce negative thinking, and become more aware of our body and emotions. As we learn to pacify the human system, it begins to reacquaint itself with the rest and repose response vs. stress states related to everyday living or past experiences.
Classes are taught with this model of healing in mind for transformative results that affect the body, mind, and emotions. For students who make yoga a daily practice, whether that includes 10 minutes of conscious breathing, 20 minutes of body postures, or 15 minutes of visualization and meditation, yoga can have a profound effect on reducing stress and improving well-being.
The best way to understand yoga is to experience it — to feel it — how the body responds to connecting breath with movement and to begin to feel ourselves in our bodies. Feeling what it means to inhale while lifting and opening the chest is both liberating and expansive. Lengthening the spine on exhale allows you to feel the movement of the spine. After completing just a 30-minute practice, for example, you will begin to feel more connected to how the body feels while the mind becomes more focused and clear.
Yoga: The Body
I teach the physical practice of yoga in combination with breathing. Moving with specific attention to inale and exhale enhances the natural movement of the body and spine. I also modify postures to the individual needs of the student so poses and the breath are stable and comfortable.
Āsana, or body postures, serve to improve flexibility and build strength both comfortably and steadily. When combined with appropriate breathing, they direct the mind to a sustained point of attention. The body parts that are connected to the spine are directly and indirectly influenced by the movement flow of breath (or prana).
Connecting breath and movement is essential in becoming more aware of how we feel in our bodies. We become stronger and more flexible while practicing consistently and over a sustained amount of time. As we become more aware of ourselves and our bodies, compassion toward ourselves grows and we begin to a feel a greater connection within.
As we begin to care for our bodies, we understand that yoga should never be painful, and movement facilitated by breath is a graceful process leading to the exploration of the self. Primary categories of poses practiced in classes include: forward bends for lengthening of the spine; back bends for mild arches and extension of the spine; twists for gentle movement of the spine; and side stretches that bring lateral movement to the spine.
Yoga: The Breathing
Breathing is essential to our well-being and brings vital life force to the multiple layers of the human system. On inhale and exhale, the spine moves subtly, affecting limbs, internal organs, and the muscles of the body. Breath moves vital life force (prana) throughout the body. Attention to the breath not only supports the vital functions of the body, but when breathing is done in a conscious manner, it brings the mind to attention, leads to clarity, and supports emotional wellness.
Breathing techniques explored in classes include:
- Connecting breath and movement so that every action of the body is done on either inhale or exhale
- Gentle retention of the breath leading to an expanded awareness of how breathing affects the whole system
- Gradual lengthening of the breath to support various systems of the human body
- Exploration of breathing techniques that work to direct the mind toward focus
Yoga: The Mind
In totality, the primary goal of yoga is to direct and positively influence the mind. Movement and breath coordination followed by a breathing practice prepares the body to sit and readies the mind to focus and move toward a state of meditation. I teach visualization and meditation techniques for relaxation and transformation.
The activities of the mind fluctuate throughout the course of a day, from what we see and observe to what we imagine and remember. It includes what we smell and hear perceiving the world around us through a lens that is influenced by memories and culture, imagination, the environment we live in, the food we eat, the people we interact with, and myriad other factors. Depending on the quality of the lens through which we perceive the world, it can set in motion a series of positive or negative thoughts that influence our actions, behaviors, emotions, and how we relate to the world around us.
As we practice yoga, random thoughts may bombard us. But, as we direct our mind toward movement, breath, or visualization the activity of the mind becomes focused in one direction. As the mind becomes focused in one direction, the quality of the mind and its lens shifts, leaving space for positive thoughts and clear perception.