Hey yogis! Welcome back for another fun and informative reading! Last week we learned a little about the history and benefits of Vinyasa yoga, how our teacher Lina W. Walldén found yoga, and also a bit about myself, Shirin! This week we will dive into the three most important aspects of yoga: breathing, focus, and alignment. Regardless of what your level of practice is, these three aspects are essential in every yoga style.
So why is breathing so important? Breathing is the most vital thing we do every single day, and yet most of us give it very little thought. But, when it comes to a productive yoga routine, settling your mind, relaxing, and centering yourself, breathing is one of the most important steps to master.
When we turn inward and focus on each breath our minds begin to quiet. And as we focus on our breaths, other thoughts are less likely to occur. Concentrating on breathing takes the focus off other areas of the body where we may be holding tension and stress. As soon as we begin to breathe, we loosen and release tense parts of our body.
In yoga, uneven breathing is often the product of a troubled mind. Our goal is to find the point in our mind-body balance where we can breathe with ease and in sync with the flow of our body’s movement in the different yoga postures.
There are different types of breathing that will come up in various yoga practices.
Malin Bergström, one of our Yoga Roots teachers, fell in love with this ancient practice during one special yoga class that left her feeling grateful and amazing. I spoke to her and asked, “what’s the best way to breathe?”
“Find a comfortable sitting position, sit upright with your back and relax your shoulders and face. Count to a suitable number when you breathe in and out. I usually count inhalation 1-2-3-4 and exhalation 4-3-2-1. In through the nose, out through the nose”.Malin Bergström
Yogis, let’s try to find our breath together now before we move on – close your eyes, take a deep breath in and out, and again twice more.
Focus, or Drishti, is the Sanskrit word that loosely translates to ”gaze”, “view” or “point of focus”. It is a specific point to lock your eyes on and it is used most commonly during meditation or while holding a balancing or difficult yoga posture.
We have all been unfocused or distracted during moments of our yoga practice and have felt our eyes wandering around the room. When the eyes are fixed on a single point the mind ceases from being stimulated by all other external objects. The first thing that drishti offers in yoga practice is balance. We find a place where we place our gaze and attention, it can be a fixed point on the wall or the tip of the nose, whatever you prefer. When the gaze is fixed on a single point, our awareness draws inwards and the mind remains undisturbed by external stimuli. The use of a drishti allows the mind to focus and move into a deep state of concentration and balance. Basically, so that when we are in a challenging posture we don’t fall face first to the floor.
Next time you’re in one of our Yoga Roots classes and you find it hard to focus, try to find your drishti and in turn your balance and power.
“My biggest job when I lead a class is not to have the most fun, creative and interesting class (even though that’s a bonus), it is for me to make sure you are safe, to look at your alignment and help you to find what works for your body!”.Lina Lindahl
Having good alignment keeps your joints in their proper positions, allows us to obtain the most benefits from our practice and also helps us to find that point where we can be comfortable. Misalignment on the other hand, will cause discomfort in your yoga poses. It may be difficult at first to accept that your body can’t go directly where you might want it to, but over time the body builds strength and elasticity needed to extend your reach and progress in asana practice.
Proper alignment produces optimal muscle performance which translates to power.
In addition, it helps prevent your spine, joints, and muscles from getting into awkward angles and positions. But how can you find good alignment? I asked the “queen of alignment” Lina Lindahl about some alignment tips:
“The tricky part with alignment for me as a teacher is that I have to speak to the class as a whole. All bodies are different and I can only give cues that are true for “most people”. For you as a student it’s important to check in what works for your body. Sometimes your body shouts, but sometimes it whispers. At times yoga can be uncomfortable and that’s ok, however anything that hurts is an indication to take a step back or make a change. Many times, as described above, alignment isn’t just how something looks but more so how it feels”.
Thus, we must learn to go slowly and to practice each modification or variation of a posture that best fits our level.
That’s it for this week folks. Next week’s blog is inspired by the inversion style of workshops that are coming up in November and will be all about the benefits of inversions – you don’t want to miss that! And remember yogis to take care of these three important aspects, whether in yoga or everyday life. Breathe, focus and align – Namaste.