Published in Senior Living Magazine, December 2016. p.26
YOGA BREATH WITH MOVEMENT
Connecting the breath with movement is essential to a Yoga practice. It has been said if you are not (consciously) breathing, it’s not Yoga, just stretching. In addition to the Centering Breath and Alternate Nostril Breathing exercises discussed in my previous articles (Oct Nov issues), the breath most commonly used during movement in a Yoga practice is known as the Victorious Breath or Ocean Breath – audible waves of breath washing over the entire body on the inhale, and moving out with the tide on the exhale. Imagine your breath as the sounds heard when holding your ear to a seashell.
Finding Victorious/Ocean Breath:
- When inhaling through the nostrils, tuck the chin back lightly toward your neck to create a slight constriction at the base of your throat, bringing sound to your breath. This is sometimes amusingly referred to as finding your inner Darth Vader.
- To find your audible breath on the exhale, place your hand in front of your mouth, and exhale through your mouth as if your palm is a mirror that you are trying to fog up. Now close your lips, and use that same “fog-up-the-mirror” exhale through the nostrils.
Connecting movement to this breath brings focus and fluidity to your practice, while serving as an audible reminder to breathe, and breathe deeply. It is surprising to realize how often we hold our breath, and have to remind ourselves to breathe.
A daily Yoga practice involves the following six (6) basic movements of the spine. Notice the inhale is used when opening or extending, and the exhale when folding or turning. Practice using slow, controlled movements and breaths – full inhales and complete exhales. Similar to the lesson in the Tortoise and Hare fairy tale, slow and steady is the best course for reaping benefits in a Yoga practice.
Back Bend (1) – Standing with palms supporting low back, fingers pointing toward floor, elbows pressing toward each other to open the heart. Inhale slowly and deeply while leaning back gently into the palms; gaze up at the sky without dropping the head. Exhale to release back up to standing.
Forward Fold (2) – Standing with arms resting to the sides or hands on hips; Inhale to extend top of crown to sky for a long spine. Exhale slowly as you hinge forward at the hips, leading with the heart and chin, stopping at your point of the forward fold. Tuck chin toward collarbone; slowly lift the heart to return to standing on the Inhale. Lift the chin; Exhale.
Side Bend/Laterals (3 & 4) – Standing with hands resting on hips; elbow out to side; Inhale to extend and lift left arm, fingertips to sky, shoulder relaxed away from ear. Exhale to extend arm overhead to right side of body (reaching through the left side body and not the shoulder); keep hips level. Inhale to lift arm back overhead; Exhale to lower arm, left hand to hip. (Repeat to right side.)
Twists (5 & 6) – Standing with right palm pressed to front of right hip, and left palm pressed to back of left hip; Inhale top of crown to sky for extended spine; Exhale while slowly twisting torso to left, eventually turning the head to look over the left shoulder. Press both palms into the hips equally and firmly during the twist to keep hips facing forward. (Switch placement of palms; repeat to right side.)
To advance your Yoga practice, stay in each pose for several breaths, perhaps extending further on each inhale, and releasing a little more into the pose on each exhale. Holding each pose for 3 full breaths is recommended for a beginning practice, 5 breaths for an intermediate practice, and 8 breaths for an advanced practice.
So now you’re doing Yoga without putting your leg behind your head – who knew?!
“Anybody can breathe. Therefore, anybody can practice yoga.” (T.K.V. Desikachar)
Julie Hunt-Juneau, RYT 200
Yoga By Water