Sighing is Healing

“Nothing can so pierce the soul as the uttermost sigh of the body.” ~ George Santayana

During a yoga class, a teacher said, “The body loves a good sigh.”

I did a big sigh and realized she was absolutely, 100% correct. I felt pretty good after that sigh.

When a yogi sighs in class, I can almost see the stress drain away from their body. They look a little lighter. And when I sigh in class, I, too, feel lighter.

When I’m teaching, I can always tell the pro yogis because they sigh. And those pro yogis aren’t always the ones getting into advanced poses.  To me, pro yoga  means that person gets the whole enchilada when it comes to yoga. They aren’t just there for exercise, or because they’ve been told it is a good thing to do for the body. Pro yogis understand they are there to release and heal.

And here’s the other important part. When these pro yogi’s sigh in class, it isn’t a quiet, dainty sigh. It is a sigh that starts as a huge inhale from the lungs and then asks the gut, “Hey, you want in on this action?” The sigh then releases as a full-throat, loud primal sound.

All of this led me to ask, Why do we sigh? Continue reading Sighing is Healing

Breath IS part of the pose.

I think we, as yogis, often think of the breath and the pose as two different things. Because of this, the breath often gets left to the way side. Which is why I’m constantly reminding yogis in class to use their breath to stay centered.

Let’s look at this a bit. What if the breath is PART of the pose?  I think that this is the true way to practice yoga. That, instead of thinking that the pose is cake and the breath is ice cream, think of it as ice cream cake. And who doesn’t like ice cream cake? Okay, well, maybe you don’t, but I do. Mmmm…ice cream cake….

So, how do we incorporate the breath into the pose so it becomes part of the pose, just as much as putting your feet in the proper place and relaxing your shoulders? One way is to incorporate movement with the breath in the pose. For example, in most poses you can lengthen the spine with each inhale. The exhale can be placed in many places. Maybe exhaling while pressing the feet into the earth, or exhaling and going a little deeper into the pose.  It’s important to remember that these “movements” are micro-movements, more of an intention of movement than actual movement. For example: 

Dancer/Standing Bow: Inhale and puff up the chest. Exhale and kick deeper into the pose.  

 

 

Half Tortoise: Inhale into the back of the lungs expanding between the shoulder blades. Exhale and draw the belly button into the spine to stretch the lower back.

What about poses that you are truly stagnant? For example, balancing poses like Tree? You can use the same idea: inhale and lengthen the spine,  exhale and engage the abs or press the feet into the ground. But I think there is another use of the breath in a balancing pose like Tree.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

The breath can be used as an anchor. It keeps you calm and steady. When in balancing poses like Warrior 3 or Eagle, focusing on the breath can help maintain the pose. It takes you deeper into the pose so you can be aware of every detail while balancing. The breath turns a balancing pose into a meditative pose. You can use the breath to keep the mind from wandering and taking you out of the pose.  

 

The wisest one-word sentence? Breathe. ~ Terri Guillemets

Finally, breath is a part of the pose because, in most cases, when you forget to breathe, when you hold your breath, you are not optimizing the pose. In most cases, if you are holding your breath, you are clenching your muscles. And, in most cases, if you are not breathing and instead clenching, you are most likely clenching your neck or jaw. Our body thinks that holding the breath and tightening these muscles will help keep you upright. In reality, you are just wasting energy. Instead, it’s important to focus on breathing and retrain the body to tighten the muscles you are actually using in the pose, such as the abdomen and leg muscles. So, breath is an important aspect of the pose itself. Just as it is important to make sure you have the proper pose alignment, it is important to make sure you are breathing.

I noticed every time I felt overwhelmed, I would hold my breath. I had to learn to stop, relax, and take long deep breaths, and within seconds I would feel more clear and ready to deal with the situation in a more loving way. ~ Gisele Bundchen

Let’s take the idea of breath a step further into the “pose of life.” In reality, our yoga practice is just a reflection of our day-to-day life. And our day-to-day life is a reflection of our practice. This is why doing yoga keeps us calmer off the mat. And this is why it is harder to relax in our practice when we are having issues in our day-to-day life. However, learning how to relax on the mat teaches us how to relax in life. And learning how to breath in a pose teaches us how to breath in life.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. ~ Etty Hillesum

What if Bruce Banner did yoga?

For example, when you get into an uncomfortable pose, breathing helps to calm the body and breathe through the uncomfortable. If you hold your breath when you are uncomfortable in a pose, it just makes everything worse. The same is true for uncomfortable situations in life. Often times, in life, when we are faced with an uncomfortable situation we tense our muscles, hold our breath, our mind starts to spin and we forget to think. This just makes the whole situation worse. But if we remember to take three deep breaths we can find calm again. If we have learned on the mat that breathing helps keep us calm and in the moment, we can take that lesson to that real life situation. AND, just like a yoga pose, the uncomfortable moment will not last forever. So just breathe through it.

The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings. ~ TKV Desikachar

Breath is the key to everything. It is the first thing we do when we come into this world, and it will be the last thing we do when we leave. It is with us every day, every moment, even though we aren’t paying attention to it. It is a powerful tool that no only keeps us alive, it helps us cope and it helps us stay focused. It is a signal when something is wrong and we hold our breath or breathe faster. It is a signal when something is right when we sigh with contentment.

Take some time to pay attention to your breath. Take some deep breaths and feel the love it gives back. Feel the life that comes with it. Feel the gratitude it brings. Just as breath is a part of the pose, the breath is a part of life.

Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life. ~ Giovanni Papini  

 

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The Devil is in the Details

“The Devil is in the Details” – Problems or difficulties that result from the unforeseen nature of unexamined details. A catch hidden in the details.

Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014

Many moons ago, a chiropractor (who will remain anonymous) was trying to adjust my back and did something to my right sacroiliac joint. (To be called “SI joint” from here on out. If you don’t know what the SI joint is, click here.) When the chiropractor did the adjustment, it was very painful and I instantly felt a burning sensation. I went to a yoga class right after and it burned through out class. My SI joint has never been the same.

Over the years, it would get worse and then better. But over the past 3 months, it was just getting worse. I would avoid twists and that would help, but it just wasn’t going away. I finally decided I needed professional help. Continue reading The Devil is in the Details

Advice for Your First Yoga Class

I remember my first yoga class. It was horrible.

It was in a small room in the basement of a gym. The lights were turned down so I couldn’t see anyone for reference. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know the poses. I didn’t know where to put my limbs or even where my limbs were in the darkness. I don’t even remember if the teacher was doing poses on the mat or walking around the room. All I remember from that first experience was darkness and confusion.

It was so horrible it took me about seven years to try it again.

Because of that horrible first experience, I have huge empathy for a new student. I want to do everything I can to make their first experience the best possible. I want them to come back. I want them to get a glimpse of the yoga that I love. But I also know, no matter how much I prep them and help them in class, it is probably not going to be a fun experience for them.

So, here is what I tell them. Continue reading Advice for Your First Yoga Class

Anchors in Yoga and in Life

An anchor is a symbol of stability and strength. I’ve been playing with the idea of anchors in yoga.  The idea of a part of the body being your anchor in a pose is just my theory. It is something that I feel myself in my practice. I’ve never read anything about anchors in poses. So, I’m going completely off the charts here.

To me, just like the symbol implies, an anchor in a yoga pose is somewhere in the body that provides strength and stability to the pose. From that anchor point, you are able to find stillness and deepen into the pose. It is where you root yourself down so you can be sturdy in your pose, so you can find ease in your pose. Continue reading Anchors in Yoga and in Life

Grounding Hacks

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about becoming grounded at a moment’s notice. Since then, I ran across an image of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal dance move. The one where his feet stay flat on the ground but his body moves to a 45 degree angle.  It made me think of the benefits of being grounded. When I searched the video on YouTube to watch it in detail, I found this surprising video. I learned the dance move is a trick.

Now, maybe many of you already knew this. I did not. And, for some reason, I didn’t care. Even tricks can work for staying grounded. Continue reading Grounding Hacks

STRRRRESSSSS!!!!

“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact our physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.” ~ Kris Carr

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that stress was harmful to your body. I didn’t go into detail in that blog because stress is such a big deal it deserves its own blog.

So here we go…

Stress: the Silent Killer. *Dun dun DUN!*

When I tell clients about stress, I give them a general description of why stress is harmful that goes like this: Continue reading STRRRRESSSSS!!!!

How Becoming Centered and Grounded will Keep You from Exploding

Life happens. And often that life is frustratingly full of annoyances and mean people. Being centered and grounded is your one defense against irrational emotional explosions and possibly jail. I’m here to help you learn these Yoga Nerd tools.

But first, what is centering and grounding? Sometimes people see them as the same thing.  I find them to be very different but equally important. They are the magic combo to mastering your reactions. Continue reading How Becoming Centered and Grounded will Keep You from Exploding

How to Stop Eating Worms

Sometimes, it’s just a bummer of a day.

Ember the Fluff Corgi having a Bummer Day

You don’t know why you are down, but you are.  Sometimes you just wake up that way. My Aunt calls it an  “Eat Worms” day based on the song, “Nobody likes me, Everybody hates me, Guess I’ll go eat worms…”  Today was a bummer “Eat Worms” day. Continue reading How to Stop Eating Worms

Did You Know the Number 108 is a Magical Number?

108 IS a magical number! I have evidence…

With baseball season in full swing, my thoughts go back to the Cubs winning the World Series. Not because I’m a Cubs fan. My husband is the Cubs fan. I’m reminded of that glorious day in my husband’s life when the Cubs won the World Series because of the number 108.

Huh? Continue reading Did You Know the Number 108 is a Magical Number?