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Yoga Close to Home: Breathing the Gift of Life

© Shelley Piser

These days we hear all about yoga… power yoga, hot yoga, urban yoga, sports yoga, yoga for golfers, tennis players, swimmers, runners, walkers, sleepers, children, seniors, naked yoga; and the list goes endlessly on and on.

If you are a senior and you are just waking up to the realization that you can no longer bend over to tie your shoelace or hook your Velcro, you might also be wondering how you could ever imagine yourself doing this highly popularized craze that dates back to ancient India, or where you might even be able to fit in attempting some of those pretzel-like exercises called Yoga.

I have been doing yoga since I was nineteen and now I am definitely in my fifties. To my amazement in the last ten years, yoga trends have moved from a quiet, hidden, thoughtful approach to stress reduction, using gentle stretches, strengthening exercises and breath awareness, to a very aggressive, highly competitive, aerobic sweat shop that has hit every spa and health club in every town and city in the USA. People curious about yoga are finding it very intimidating to enter an overheated, overcrowded yoga class that is, more like boot camp than what the yogis of India intended in their quest for inner truth and health through a daily yoga practice.

So, how is a seasoned citizen who is curious to experience the benefits that yoga has traditionally promoted and is presently claiming as a national cure-all find a friendly and tangible beginning approach to studying yoga in today’s highly yoga competitive climate?

We always have heard that the teacher is “within” and that the body is the temple. I am encouraging every able bodied person looking for a place to begin yoga to find the most available source of yoga that we have every minute of the day AND THAT IS YOUR BREATH.

The word “respiration” means to inspire again and again from within; in other words bringing spirit back to the body for renewal not just once but over and over again.

Breathing is the true gift of life that we have regardless if we are beggars on the street, Wall Street traders, or yoga masters. No matter if we are aware of it or not. Naturally we take our breathing for granted, that is, until our lung capacity is diminished, until we find that we are easily out of breath doing daily activities, where in the past the same activity would not have even fazed us. The yoga practice of Breathing (known as Pranayama) is simply the means of becoming more aware of your breath and of the magical effects that deep breathing brings to your body, your energy, and to your mind. This simple practice will reveal how deep breathing is the foundation of health as well as the gateway for entering into the beginning stages of practicing the very ancient youth restoring art of yoga.

So many students avoid breathing practice in classes and many teachers fail to teach it because it continues to remain one of the mysterious and subtle teachings of yoga.

There is no mystery in the breath. The real mystery is to ask why we don’t breathe. To explore how the breath reflects something much deeper and reflective than the shallow breath most people live with.

In the oriental study of health and healing, the emotion connected to the Lungs is deep grief. This emotional stress can begin at a very young age or sneak up on us as we get older and have more and more responsibilities and disappointments.

Since the lungs reflect and react to deep grief the posture reflecting this grief may show as sunken chest, rounded shoulders, and a collapsed upper back. In turn causing degrees of neck tension, headaches, as well as creating a very shallow space for the heart. Because of the complex process of respiration, the lack of a full breath over time creates tightness around the heart, heaviness in the upper body, and tightness of the diaphragm which, in turn, puts stress on the lower back and sacrum, affecting our ability to stand up straight which adds to the lack of breath capacity.

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About The Author
Shelley Piser is a teacher of teachers. Since 1972, Shelley has been studying and teaching throughout the US, Europe and Australia. She has been teaching Yoga in the Los Angeles area since 1975 in the Iyengar tradition.

Her inspired teaching weaves together thirty years of practice of Iyengar yoga, pranayama, and mediation, along with influence......more

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