Yoga is much more than a physical practice. With an emphasis on the breath and foundational postures, it opens the door to being fully with yourself and being better connected with both your body and what is beyond yourself.
“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.”
What is it, and how can it help?
Almost everyone has heard of yoga and has some notion of what it is. Probably one of the most widespread practices in the world, yoga takes innumerable forms and there really is no authoritative way to define it other than to generally say it is a practice which aims to connect body, mind and spirit.
Yoga is most commonly known in the Western world for its physical postures, “asanas”, stretching exercises to build flexibility, strength, coordination, balance and stamina. But yoga can be much more than physical. Patanjali was an Indian sage living in the 4th or 5th century C.E. and responsible for crafting the Yoga Sutras, a sacred text of yoga philosophy.
The “8 Limbs of Yoga” detailed in the Sutras describe a multi-faceted path to the goal of yoga. The first two limbs, yamas and niyamas, were guidelines on daily living. The third was asana, the physical practice of postures. The fourth was pranayama, or breath control. These first four limbs were more concrete and pragmatic practices, while the second four were more esoteric like sense withdrawal and meditation.
Postures are an essential part of doing yoga but for it be something more than just a stretching exercise or physical workout requires broadening the practice to some of those other limbs. Breathing, for example, is such a core component of being alive as a human and yet many of us have allowed our breathing to become far from optimal—and this can affect us not just on a physical level but mentally and spiritually too.
Effective, adapatable breathing helps us live well and feel well. Asanas provide foundation for breathing practices, and mindful breathing helps us connect with the physical experience of being in our body.
What does it look like?
Breathing is the key guiding element to the yoga I teach, and the yoga I practice everyday. It is integrated into each yoga posture and the movements between them. This yoga approach:
- is a practice, not a workout
- avoids complex or highly finessed asanas in favour of primary postures which permit stability of the body
- harmonizes breathing with movement
- tends to be unhurried, though not plodding, and allow for time spent experiencing postures
- focuses on cultivating a solid foundation for postures and mindful breathing to exist
- is gentle yet can still offer challenge
Because I believe yoga is more than just the physical practice of asanas, sessions typically begin with a nod to intention, include one or more pranayama techniques, and end with brief meditation on some notion related to living skillfully and being a quality human being.
Who provides it?
Neil is a Yoga Alliance™ certified RYT-200™ yoga teacher. He completed the Teaching Hatha Yoga certificate at Sheridan College in Oakville, trained in-person by Sundeep Tyagi, Courtney Bruce & Joy Dorsey in a 16 month program consisting of 144 practical (asana) class hours and 144 theory (yoga history & philosophy class hours. Read full bio.
How is it accessed?
Breath-focused yoga lessons will be available beginning in Summer 2020.
™ The Yoga Alliance name, trademark(s) and logo(s) used herein are the intellectual property of Yoga Alliance.