The Art of vinyasa: Uniting the breath

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The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word "yug" or "yolk," meaning "to join, come together or unite." Though there are many styles of yoga taught and practiced, there is one common thread between all styles of yoga that keeps us balanced in both the doing and being and that my friends, is the lengthening of the breath. When one is stressed out, over worked and emotions are high, this accelerates the heart rate, raises blood pressure and constricts blood vessels. Yoga breathing brings the mental body into balance and triggers the "parasympathetic" or responsive state of being. The parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart rate and increases gland and intestinal activity. Thus, the feeling of being more calm, more at peace, and more centered at the end of a practice.

Pranayama is the practice of expanding enhancing ones life force. Through linking breath and movement, within the physical practice, one begins to experience more ease in from pose to pose. This ease in transitions is quite helpful in maintaining energy levels and a balanced state of mind when we have a long list of things to do and the mind is scattered or when we are discussing a serious topic with a co-worker or loved one.  As we lengthen the breath, in through the nose and out through the nose, not only do we send more oxygen to the brain, but we begin to increase our life force or Prana.  Though subtle at first, the practice of deep yoga breathing provides many health benefits, include proper blood circulation, deeper sleep, reduction in appetite if performed regularly and increased energy. This age old system of balancing out the flow of energy through the body systems helps keep the mind balanced and the body free of disease. If there was one thing you did every day to help improve your health, it would be to take slow, deep, conscious breaths. This doesn't take extra time; you can do it while standing in line at the grocery store or at the red light in traffic.

"Why is breathing deeply such an important aspect of the yoga practice? Could I get the same benefits from practicing yoga without the deep breaths?"

I'm going to answer: NO on this one. Though stretching and other forms of exercise have great benefits, yoga is so much more than great exercise, yoga effects all of the major organs, tissues, and functions of the body and mind. When the breath is steady, the mind is steady, and when the mind is steady, the emotions become less reactive and more responsive or "balanced." This means a happier you.  The stead focus (or dristi), the form (asana or posture) the connection to breath (pranayama), and core locks (or bhundas) unite to provide the union from the inside out. Through observing the minds chatter or emotional disturbances, one may at first think, "Oh, this yoga stuff is not for me, I'm not good at staying still and breathing, I'm better at tennis." Yet, what begins to reveal itself inside of the yoga are the habits of our minds or the sensitive areas of our bodies we may have tried not to face (like our core;) or feeling the discomfort with breathing out the tension we've long held in the shoulders. So, how does one venture into the practice of yoga without learning the art of uniting the breath?

This takes a sense of awareness or simply, just wanting to have a deeper more fulfilled and lasting sense of freedom. One might say, "Hey, I'd love to feel more fulfilled, I'd love to feel healthier and happier, wouldn't we all?" Well, I'd venture to say sometimes, happiness is much closer, more tangible and available than we'd like to admit. And that is where taking responsibility and taking action unite. This is the art of Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa yoga links breath with movement, builds heat and releases the minds need to hold grip so tightly to life's "steering wheel". Get ready to flow with the breath and feel fabulous! Everyday is a new adventure and today we practice surrendering to the grace of our breath and flowing with ease moment to moment.