(Follow the links in this post for additional information on each topic. Happy learning!)
How many times have you found yourself holding your breath while trying to learn something new, such a half-pass or gymnastics combination? Yes? Most of us have 🙂
One of the gifts offered by yoga is learning how to breathe well, move, and perform at the same time. Importantly, we inhale and exhale with the mouth closed in yoga. Unlike exercise, such as running or pilates, yoga teaches practitioners how to meet stress with calm by activating the parasympathetic nervous system through breath.
In the first classes of our Tuesday and Thursday Yoga for Equestrians courses, we are focusing on the importance of connecting breath (prana, the life force) with movement. We also learn how to practice Ujjayi Breathing, Victorious Breath, a form of pranayama, or breath control, most used in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, the form of yoga with which I began my journey over 20 years ago. Here are three simple and safe ways that one can practice breathing and moving:
Wave Breathing is safe for everyone, and can be practiced by cupping the knees or holding the backs of the thighs if that is a challenge. Exhale – knees in. Inhale – knees out.
Cat/Cow (or, for us: Cat/Sway Backed Horse!) is another good warm up for the spine and practice of connecting breath and movement. Really push the ground away and create a “Halloween Cat” with your back, including tucking the tailbone under (often, riders’ lower backs are tight and can benefit greatly from this movement). Keep elbows straight in Cow pose and draw the shoulders back. Exhale – round to Cat. Inhale – extend to Cow.
Swan Dive to Rag Doll Rollup allows the back to stretch nicely and for the prana to really wake up (I’m embedding the link to the FB post of it, as the video is too large to upload to this blog). Engage your abdominal muscles well in all the movements. If your back bothers you, keep your knees bent even on the “dive” forward and down, and/or support yourself by putting your hands on your thighs, as is shown later in the video. Inhale – reach up. Exhale – swan dive. Inhale and exhale as you slowly stack each vertebra on the now under it and round up to standing.
Feel free to comment or ask questions below!
Happy practicing ~namaste, Sylvia