Yoga asana is the first step in teaching ourselves to focus. We are asked to “listen to our body”, so we place our attention on the experience in our body of doing yoga. The effect of this is increased awareness, but also stillness of the mind as it focuses. Follow this with relaxation, guided meditation, or both, and there’s the foundation of self-observation, which helps us practice safely.
Pranayama, breath as a focus
But that is just the beginning, there is a whole system of practicing focus, both in asana and pranayama. It includes techniques for supporting, lengthening, and observing the breath, and this continues to take us to new levels of attention. Each layer of focus is protective, as we become ever more aware of subtle information.
We need to keep up this effort because it’s easy to do yoga from habit, repeating movements over and over without adequate attention. During the process of learning to tune in to our body, we can develop habits that are actually putting wear and tear on muscles, joints, our whole body. Sometimes this only manifests after years of practice, and it can be majorly disruptive or limiting to continuing yoga.
This is why turning the same amount of attention towards your breath as you have towards learning the physical poses and spiritual teachings are important- it keeps us intently observing ourselves. Pranayama, breath as a focus, is classic, but few yogis are taught the full range of techniques that help create the safest practicing environment.
Yoga, means the union between the mind, body, and spirit and we do that through Asana (poses) and Pranayama (Breathing patterns) to assist in refining our attention ever deeper as we advance in the knowledge of practicing yoga.
There are 4 steps:
Attention: what is the quality of your breath, how does it move through your body
Linking to movement: how does the breath’s rhythm support the body and vice-versa
Lengthening: monitor the breath and maintain an even length and rhythm, then lengthen
Patterns: There are 4 phases of breath- Inhale, pause, exhale, pause. Lengthen one or more phases of the breath to create symmetrical or unsymmetrical patterns.
Explore the levels of attention to the breath, not just for the fun of it, but to improve the connection between mind and body so you stay safe, and avoid injury in both the short and long term.
Join Joy Core Connection for Self-exploration Through the Breath: an introduction to advanced pranayama
Frances Adamson teaches yoga in Oshawa
279 Central Park Blvd. North