How to improve your yoga practice

Category : Asanas (Postures), General advice 30th November 2020

Inside Yoga 312 (30/11/2020)

There is one thread which holds together our yoga practice, whether we are doing yoga asanas (physical exercises) or dhyana (meditation), and this is our breathing. It is simply at the core of our practice, and in fact, at the core of our being.

I have often written about the breathing but we need reminding because although it is at the core of our being we often forget about our breathing and take it for granted.

So the message here is simple: whatever we are doing, whether it is a standing posture or a seated posture, or in fact, anything at all, remember to breathe deeply and slowly, and importantly, keep your attention on the breathing.

By putting breathing at the centre of our focus everything else is linked to it, whether it is our body or our mind. Through practice we train our body to respond and do certain actions, and hold positions, and also, we train our mind to remain focussed on what we are doing – and not distracted by thoughts, sounds, feelings and emotions which have nothing to do with the act of practising yoga, or anything else – and thereby quietening our self.

When practising a slow deep breath is what we want, whereas most of the time our breathing can be short and shallow. Not sure. Watch your breathing for a while and see how it really is. Breathing slowly and deeply takes practice – training – so that gradually it becomes second nature to breathe deeply and slowly.

Also, notice how often we stop breathing. It might be just a short moment, but again be aware of this tendency, and see if the breathing can be trained to be more steady and consistent.

This is important: do not expect a 100 percent record of success, but do expect to improve our breathing in general, and its control, through this training exercise. It is, however, important to train ourselves how to return to the better way of breathing. The return is key, as it is during meditation in which we train ourselves to return to silence, with no thoughts by dropping our repetitive chattering in our head!

One of the most common things people tell me is that they are not very good at this practice. This thought is not only unhelpful, but it is not the point, because making small steps towards improvements is more important than judgements which aim for perfection (there is no such thing).

We do what we can, and always remember that when we notice we have lost our focus, or our breathing is shallow again, is that we calmly, without judgement, return to the exercise, and also return to sense of calm and clarity. It does not matter if the focus does not last long – a few seconds – because getting back is the key.

Remember to breathe well.

Related article: Simply breathing click

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