- Breathing is primary.
Breathing is the most fundamental movement we do. We do it so much that we barely notice it. It is the one physiological function that happens automatically and involuntarily that we can also consciously control. We can change our breathing rate and depth voluntarily. How we breathe affects everything else we do.
In yoga, there are breathing techniques that energize as well as calm the body and mind. Every movement is coordinated with an inhale or an exhale. Even when sitting apparently motionless in a posture, there are subtle movements that occur with each breath, and the breathing is used as tool to get deeper into the posture physically and mentally.
Video Transcript: One of the first things to remember with yoga practice is that breathing is primary. Yoga is primarily breathing exercise, so that the depth we attain in any given posture becomes irrelevant if we stop breathing or if we stop paying attention to the breath. So that's one of the tools that we use in yoga to cultivate intense present moment awareness is attention to the breath. The breath, breathing is the most fundamental movement that we do even if we're totally inactive the rest of the time. Or the entire time for 24 hours even if we're on bed rest, we're still breathing all day every day, 24 hours a day, it's the one movement that supports every other movement that we perform. So it makes sense to pay attention to it, tune in to it. To cultivate the ability to control it and to breathe better, more effectively. You can also use the breath as a way to stabilize our mood, emotions.
- It is ALL about the process.
The philosophical side of yoga teaches us to engage in the practice with a focus on the process and detachment from the outcomes. This does not mean we are careless or apathetic; it is merely a humble acceptance that many things are beyond our control. Our culture is very results-oriented and most of us learn very early to reach for, cling to, and grasp at the things we desire. Yoga teaches us to let go of our focus on the fruits of our efforts, and use that energy to fully engage in the process.
This is very liberating because the attitude and actions we take are within our control. Through yoga practice we become free of worry about the results and become more efficient in every action. Most of us have had some experience of being “in the zone” where we were totally immersed in what we were doing. Everything seemed effortless as if it was flowing through us.
Yoga is about practicing this approach to life on and off the mat. Modern sport and exercise psychology tells us that process-oriented individuals perform better more consistently than results oriented individuals, and ancient yogic philosophy agrees.
- Cobra and Upward Facing Dog are not the same.
Although they look similar, they are different. In cobra, the hips and thighs remain on the floor. The arms typically do not extend fully in this posture. In upward facing dog, the hips and thighs are lifted off of the floor. The arms are straight. In both postures the shoulders are kept maximum distance from the ears and the toes and feet are pointed with the tops of the toes resting on the mat.