Yoga has become so popular in the last decade as a form of exercise – thanks to America (I say chuckling!) Many people are attracted to yoga for its physical attributes but for those who practice know it is so much more! It truly is! For some of us it is a way of life! Yoga helps you to manage stress, develop coping skills for when things go wrong and even a gift of a positive outlook to life.
So what is yoga all about? The main purpose of yoga is to still the mind from all our thoughts, feelings, opinions, emotions and misconceptions that barrage our existence on a daily basis. Now who would not like to stop these, even if for a little while? Here are three practical ways to start :
Asana (postures) isn’t just exercise
It may seem so to modern day yogis but even they soon realise how it not only flex and tones their muscles but also calms their mind. Just doing a few sun salutations every day will bring sunshine into your life and gradually eat away at the incessant tendency to think and feel. Why not try this for a month and see how you feel – https://www.verywellfit.com/illustrated-stepbystep-sun-salutation-3567187
What the Dickens does this mean? This is simply being 100% present in the moment without judgement. Whether you are working, eating, walking or having a conversation – do so with total attention which will create a habit of mindfulness. Believe it or not but with greater awareness we DO tend to make better choices and are able to remain calm in this crazy roller coaster called LIFE.
The best way to start is by incorporating some yogic breathing techniques and meditation – a topic we can look at later. For now let us concentrate on the former as you cannot be more present than bringing awareness to your breath – the life force! Also these exercises will help to prepare you for meditation.
I recommend starting with these simple breathing exercises. Keep your eyes closed when doing these as it will help you to go into stillness which aides meditation.
Breathing Exercise 1 – Three Part Yogic Breath – the most grounding of all breathing exercises
The best way to do this is to look at how you would fill an empty glass with water. Watch how when filling the glass, the water always goes to the bottom first and then to the top till it finally overflows if you keep going. However, when emptying the same glass of water, it starts by pouring out from the top first till it reaches the bottom. Now apply this same to this breathing exercise.
Place your right hand on your chest and the left hand on your abdomen so you can feel the rise and fall of these areas with your breathing to ensure you are doing it correctly.
Start with an inhale and watch how the belly first expands, then the rib cage followed by the collarbone till you cannot hold anymore. Then exhale and watch as in sequence your collarbones float down first, then your rib cage relaxes and finally the abdomen. Squeeze every last bit of air out. Repeat 3 times
Breathing exercise 2 – Alternate Nostril Breathing – known for balancing the two sides of the brain, purifying and relaxing the nervous system
This one is a sure winner even though it sounds a bit wacky! The practice is to use one nostril at a time to inhale or exhale while closing the other. Here is a very simple way to do this.
Close off your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril
Close off your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril.
Repeat with 8 rounds (for good luck!)
Breathing exercise 3 – Bee Breath – known for the bee humming sound it makes that helps soothe a spinning mind!
Try it alone or with your children as they will not only enjoy this but also benefit from it.
Place your thumb on the cartilage between your cheek and ear and rest the other fingers gently on your head (as seen in the picture). Gently press this cartilage as if you are closing your ears.
Now take a deep breath in and as you breathe out make a loud humming sound like a bee.
Repeat 3 times
This is a tough one! When defined this word means to cease resistance, to submit, to agree to stop fighting, hiding, and resisting. Such a tall order for our modern-day self-reliant egos to give up, especially to something many do not even fully understand! Yoga advocates total dedication and surrender to God or whatever form you believe in. Acceptance is the key! For me the current situation has given me the opportunity to go back to the drawing board. For you it can be a start by just cultivating awe even if it is to the majesty of the universe. For practical purposes this can start with visualization, meditation, prayer, devotional singing, mantra (to some), selfless acts (which so many are doing right now) and much more.
3 Week Challenge
Why not try doing one set of Sun Salutations and the breathing exercises for 3 weeks and see how you feel? Post your results here to inspire others to follow you.