• Anjali Rao

If I just breathe…

If I just breathe, I will let Life in. If I just breathe, I am Alive. 

A dry, annoyingly racking cough had me down, took my breath away, made me aware of how shallow breathing can be and how much I miss deep, filling-my-belly, clearing-my-mind breathing. Simple. Since learning Yoga, I have been more mindful of how much I breathe, my style of breathing (yes, there are many) and when I use each style.

Breath and asanas are intrinsically linked; they are joined-at-the-hip buddies. One feeds the other, shaping it’s form and function. A good yoga teacher will cue the breathing  as much as the movements of the body. This has been my focus when I practice on my own. Next time you practice yoga or go to a class, remember these three connections between breath and asanas:

Breath as a yardstick: The dualistic quality of asanas require a balance between two important qualities: Sthira, alertness and Sukha, ease. When one is just starting on learning an asana, for example, or when one’s body is not prepared for the asana, there is tension in the muscles, a more heightened Sthira. The breath is more choppy, short and shallow. As the practitioner eases  and practices more, there is sukha or ease. When this balance is struck, the breath is steady. So when I started breathing more easily when doing the transitions between Downward Facing Dog and chaturanga ( plank pose), I did a little mental woo-hoo!!:)

Breath as a  vehicle: One of my favorite cues. Inhale as you lengthen your spine, exhale as you get deeper into your stretch. Again, the concept is create more space in your body, so you can expand, flex and increase circulation.

Breath as a link: Between our inner world and the outer body. When one is over excited, angry or anxious, breathing changes, becomes shorter, there is less control. I have gone to a yoga class, tired, hungry and yes, after some late night shenanigan that I had no business doing, I have not been able to hold poses long or balance more than a couple of seconds. 

Breathing with awareness during movements is what makes a mere movement, an asana. So go ahead, pay attention. Breathe and let Life in.

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