By Denise Linforth
Never before has your breath been of such huge importance to you as it is now with everything going on in the world. It’s been hundreds of years since the world experienced such pandemonium, not only the pandemic of the COVID-19 but the pandemic of fear and anxiety. Fear can be hugely debilitating. It can destroy a person’s wellbeing so rapidly and, if not gotten under control quickly enough, it can lead to a downward spiral to worse effects.
So, you may ask yourself, ‘how might yoga help me?’ We hear the word ‘yoga’ being used so often these days. Intimidating “yoga” photos and videos of very beautiful and aesthetically built women and men flood the social media pages, setting very unrealistic and sometimes very unattainable standards for the first-time practitioner or beginner yogi. However, that is not all that yoga is about. The physical aspect of yoga is actually a very small segment of what yoga is. The word ‘yoga’ means to bring together or unite. For me, yoga is a union of my mind, my body, my breath, and my spirit; alignment of myself with the universe and the feeling of calm brought about from the harmony of physical movement, emotional stability, and mental clarity.
It all begins with your breath. If you are simply taking the time to focus your awareness on your breathing, slowing down your breath and allowing troublesome thoughts or stress to leave your mind, even for just a moment, you are practicing yoga to a large degree. When you take time to concentrate your attention entirely on your breath, you have no option but to momentarily ignore negative thoughts or anxiety. And with that attentiveness to your breath, you start to become more mindful of what thoughts and feelings you allow in. You start to become selective of what you spend your attention on and you start to realise how certain external factors can affect you positively or otherwise. This can be an incredibly powerful tool and can allow you to become a better, stronger version of yourself mentally and emotionally. It can bring about an extraordinary sense of serenity and calm to even the busiest of minds. So if you have time for nothing else, simply take even 5 minutes to just breathe deeply.
Once you begin focusing your attention on your breath and nothing else, you’ll notice small changes start to happen. Because you are now aware of the thoughts and feelings that make your mind feel good or bad, you then start to realisewhat makes your body feel good or bad. You start to become aware of what foods and drinks bring you energy and what those which deplete your body. You begin to feel how movement and stretching can bring life and vitality to tired muscles and achy tissues. So the physical function of yoga begins to attract you. And again, it’s not about rushing into doing headstands, handstands, backbends and the splits! It’s simply finding out what feels good for your body and moving forward from there.
When you wake up in the morning, do you ever just stretch? Literally hands above your head, lean to one side and then the other and then sigh out your breath in relaxation as you walk to the shower? Well, that’s as simple as yoga can be. The more you move, consciously and with attention, the more you’ll feel your body respond so positively. It starts with a few simple stretches and movements into and out of different poses and then just exploring from there. The ‘ah-ha!’ moment in yoga comes when you bring the two together – BREATH and MOVEMENT. Using your breath to guide you into and out of yoga poses, stretches, and sequences can be so invigorating, while never pushing yourself past your limitations or into a point of pain. Just start – see what feels good for YOUR body and go from there.
Yoga is for every body – every size, shape, weight, and gender. Yoga is not a religion neither does it take away from religion. Yoga is simply the union of your mind, your body, your breath, and your spirit.
Images by Pixabay
Article by Denise Linforth