Yoga & Breath

To help convey my love for all things Roman, while looking past my obsession with quotes, the following quotation is inspirational and thematically-aligned with today's post.

Marcus Aurelius, Ancient Rome's philosopher-emperor, once said, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive--to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

This is true mindfulness with an emphasis on breath and the mind.

Portrait of Marcus Aurelius, image taken at The Walters Museum in Baltimore, MD

One of the reasons I decided to write this blog is to convey some of the amazing things I've learned since (making my huge life changes and) beginning my transition into yoga teacher training.  My experience has been even better than I expected.  The yoga studio in which I am earning my certification is a dream.  The people are friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable and the program itself is intensive without being overwhelming or boring.  Beginning the teacher training program has definitely aided in my transition from working to school.

Not only have I been able to apply my new knowledge and skills in my own practice, I've been able to share it with the people I love most; my amazing friends and family have been really receptive to taking "classes" with me or asking me questions about certain asana (poses) or sequences.  Now, on top of all of that, I am able to further share the love with the readers of the blog.  I am lucky to have such a supportive and interested network.  (Thank you for being a part of that!)

After this weekend, we will be onto our final training modules.  Yesterday in class, we discussed pranayama, the science of breath.  In the yogic perspective, we take in prana, generally translated as energy, through the nourishment of the foods we eat and the air we breathe.  Breathing techniques are designed to direct prana in the body.  The breath is the "body-mind link."  This means is that the quality (speed, depth, type) of our breath directly affects us.  

Have you ever been in a room where you felt annoyed/ upset/ enraged but you had no recourse at that time?  (no-need-to-get-fired-over-a-memo type upset...?) When you continuously have those types of feelings and you are not actually in a "fight or flight" situation, it begins to wear on your body.  Usually, this leads to a dysfunctional and inefficient breathing pattern.  For instance, take a moment right now to notice your breath.  Breathing up in your chest, where your ribs expand rather than your belly might be an indicator of this chronic stress response.  An excellent way to combat this feeling and eventually change your response is to incorporate a breathing exercise into your daily routine.  If you haven't yet tried to belly breathe, you may want to start there.  

Kevin, one of our instructors, shared the following (AMAZING) facts with us*:

- The average person breathes:
     - 16 times per minute
     - 20,000 times per day
     - 35 pounds of air per day

- In terms of waste removal from the body, it happens as follows:
     - breath accounts for 70 %
     - skin accounts for 20 %
     - urine accounts for 7 %
     - feces accounts for 3 %

CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT?  The breath takes care of 70% of our waste removal!  If that isn't a sign that we all need to optimize our breathing, I don't know what is.

Lastly, he shared that*:

- The brain uses 25 % of the body's oxygen, while it is only 3 % of its mass

Though I'd love to spend hours articulating all of the marvelous things we learned (if you like what you see here at MakingMindfulness, I highly recommend that you go through a program), the most important aspect of the business of breath is that we can control the quality of our breath.  We don't control the fact that we breathe, but we can alter how this affects the central nervous system by controlling our responses to the outside world.  This will help to reduce stress and anxiety.

As with everything else we discuss here, the point of developing an awareness of breath is to use whatever you can to bring your mind and body in line with one another in order to facilitate mindfulness--this means as often and for as long as possible.

Image Source: Innsbrook Free to Breathe 5K

Check out the link if you're interested in supporting
Richmond's 3rd annual run/ walk against lung cancer.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

* Casey, Kevin.  "Pranayama: The Science of Breath." Power Point Presentation and Notes.  Glenmore
          Yoga and Wellness Center, Richmond, VA. 22 February 2014. Pages 2, 3, 28.

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