yoga mats

What are the three most important aspects of yoga?

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. 

Breathing  

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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

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.

Alignment

“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.

Lina in plank pose

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.

history of yoga

A newbies journey to yoga

What is vinyasa yoga?

I often thought about how it would feel like mastering the art of yoga. To be able to move from one pose to another with ease and grace and not have my arms and legs trembling with each move. As a person who knows very little about yoga and very much about crossfit, I decided to broaden my knowledge and dive into the “yoga world”, starting with vinyasa yoga. 

One of the first things I discovered on my yoga quest was the many different types of yoga. And as a newbie to Yoga Roots I noticed the many Vinyasa classes on the schedule. So I set out to find out more on what makes this type of yoga so special. Therefore, this week we will dive into Vinyasa yoga, which comes from the Sanskrit root words meaning “to place in a special way”.

It is not a surprise that yoga has many benefits. This bendy ancient practice has health benefits that extend beyond the physical. However, there are many different types of yoga and it can be a little hard to know which style is best suitable for your needs and wants. Vinyasa is an approach to yoga in which you move from one pose directly into the next with the movement of your breath. The classes are often rhythmic, with a focus on transitions and movements, and connecting the body movements with the rhythm of the breath.

The history of Vinyasa yoga

Shaiva ascetics performing tapas via British Museum Source: British Museum.
Shaiva ascetics performing tapas via British Museum

Vinyasa yoga is a modern style of yoga, born out of the Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga tradition. The Ashtanga school was developed by a yogi named Sri Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya taught that the movements between each asana should be considered just as important as the postures themselves. His idea behind this was to deepen concentration and body consciousness throughout the entire practice. Rather than focusing on “getting into the posture” and then breathing, the aim is to keep the deep breathing and body consciousness consistent throughout all movements during the practice.

The benefits

So what are the benefits of Vinyasa yoga? For starters, it improves your energy levels while simultaneously promoting relaxation and lowering stress levels. It also offers several other benefits, including:

  • Endurance and strength training. Because the challenging poses are done in quick succession, Vinyasa yoga helps build muscle strength while improving your fitness.
  • Stability and balance. While improved balance is a benefit of yoga in general, a 2015 study in the journal PLoS One found that for people with low vision, a course of Ashtanga-based yoga significantly improved their sense of balance and reduced their fall risk.
  • Cardio workout. According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, the fast-paced movements and physical challenge of Vinyasa yoga make it an ideal light-intensity cardiovascular workout. 
  • Lower stress, less anxiety. In a 2012 study of women going through cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to quit smoking, researchers found that practicing Vinyasa yoga helped lower stress and anxiety levels. It also helped the participants quit smoking.

What do you love about Vinyasa?

Lina W. Walldén is one of the Vinyasa teachers at Yoga Roots. So, I sat down with her to get to the “root” of what makes Vinyasa yoga so special to her. Lina discovered yoga when she was 13 years old, thanks to her mother. Since then she has practiced many different types of yoga, but the Vinyasa is what she really is passionate about. In 2020 she decided to take her passion for yoga to the next step and began her Vinyasa teachers training.

Lina W. Walldén enjoying the nature
Lina W. Walldén enjoying the nature

“My favourite thing about Vinyasa yoga is the feeling of being totally connected to your body…

– Lina W. Walldén

When asked what she loves about Vinyasa, Lina replied:

“My favourite thing about Vinyasa yoga is the feeling of being totally connected to your body and not being able to think about anything else at that moment. I also love the playfulness and the creativity in the sequencing, and the fact that a Vinyasa class gives a good workout for both body and mind. This is what I aim to pass on in my teaching, combined with a feeling of calmness and stability.”

Practice with Lina weekly at Yoga Roots on Tuesdays and Sundays!

Who am I?

My name is Shirin and I’m a happy and energetic student who’s studying “communication and social media” at Medieinstitutet. I’m originally from Stockholm but have lived in Malmö for about 5 years now and I have no plans on leaving this wonderful city, which I call home. As part of my education program each semester has an internship period which stretches for 10 weeks. This semester I was lucky enough to get an internship at Yoga Roots. I knew immediately that this internship would be packed with fun and amazing experiences as I read the first sentence of Bethany’s reply to my internship request. And sure enough, it’s already week 4 and I’ve had a blast! 

So yogis, I really hope you enjoyed this week’s reading about Vinyasa yoga, Lina’s story and also appreciate getting to know a bit about me. Each week I will touch upon a yoga related subject and next week the blog is about “the 3 most important aspects of yoga”, which you don’t want to miss!

Shirin Bakhti
Me being happy, as usual 🙂