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Posts tagged breath
Pranayama
Prana - breath/energy/life force 
yama- harness/regulate/control/channel 

Breath is an autonomic function but, with practice, we can harness it’s power to change our energy levels, calm our minds, increase the capacity of our lungs, bring more oxygen supply to the body, & fortify our organs. It often takes a backseat to asana but I believe it should be front and center. I resisted learning it at first because it wasn’t as sensational as learning handstands and wild poses. I was wrong. It’s powerful and life changing. Try it. 
  
Advancing in your yoga practice means that you can continue doing basic things—like breathing deeply, observing your entire body, and quieting your inner narrator—in increasingly challenging situations (on and off your mat).
— Jason Crandell 
OCEAN BREATH OCEAN BODY

Inhalation engulfs the whole body, expanding from center to periphery. During exhalation, the tide recedes drawing back toward the center. The in-breath is a movement toward the peripheral consciousness; the out-breath moves into the core of consciousness. ~ B.K.S. Iyengar

Breathe, you crazies!
And when I say “crazies” I’m including myself. This post is for the guy in my class who asked for a “Golden Rule” I could give him any time he’s in a pose and unsure if he’s doing it “correctly”. My answer: make sure you can breathe!  When in doubt, readjust so you can breathe easily. 

But what does this MEAN?! Well, it’s usually a sign that your spine is being compromised (i.e. you’re hunched forward or compressing the vertebrae) which is preventing you from fully breathing. Solution: soften by coming out of the pose a little so you can lengthen through the spine. Here are some pics to illustrate in low lunge:
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Ack! Forced low lunge. Hunched shoulders and curved spine - can’t breathe! Doesn’t feel right. Boo!
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Just by coming up high on the finger tips and lengthening through my legs I found more length in the spine. Now I can breathe! Yeah!
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Aaaaah! Even better! Placing my hand on the books I can fully lengthen the spine. Easy breathing! Protecting the hips and back to boot!
Other examples: In forward folds - gently bend through the knees (who knew!?), sit up on a blanket, and/or don’t fold forward as much. I promise, you’ll still be stretching your hamstrings but in a healthy way.  In back bends -  think about finding space between each vertebrae and lengthen through the crown of the head instead of crunching your back to get more of a curve.

This is tough, I know! I like to push myself and I think that by going deeper I am getting a more rigorous and meaningful physical yoga practice. But, no! This forceful approach will only lead to injury. This is a great way to protect your body but it’s also a lesson in softening and surrendering. :)

In other news, my mirror is crooked (see 3rd pic). I have since straightened it out.
Hipsters Bones Alignments Funs!
Bring your leg to the side. Okay, sure! Yeah! Sounds good! But wait! Most of us cannot healthily bring our leg directly out to the side; it’s more like a sorta-front-ish/sorta-side-ish angle due to the shapes of our upper femur bones and how they fit into our hip sockets. For at least a decade I hiked my leg directly out to the side trying to lift it up high. Teachers said, “to the side” so you bet that’s where I went! Woot! But hold up. This can really hurt your hips which leads to hurt knees, ankles, and crunched spines which means difficulty breathing - this here is No-ga not yoga. 


So, here’s my solution, when holding the leg out to the side (Uttitha hasta B as shown in photo below)  feel a long standing leg, extended spine (so you can breath!) and square hips & shoulders; this probably means your leg will come forward a bit. The amount you open the hip depends on much more than flexibility alone. Your BONES and JOINTS (more info here) ultimately dictate how much you bring your leg out to the side. YES! You can gently open up the hips with time but please take into account your natural hip rotation and honor it. This is Ahimsa and Satya at it’s finest! Non-violence and truth to yourself. Fist bumps all around!

For an easy way to see how much external rotation your hip socket will naturally allow, try this: cross the right ankle over the left knee and let the knee fall open to the side. This angle will show you how far to the side you should open the leg. 
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Try to recreate this angle when you stand up or any time you bring the leg out to the side.
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Here’s another way - lie on your back and open the leg to the side. Don’t let your left hip float up off the mat! Don’t you dare! Seriously! This will mean wear and tear on the hips, knees, ankles, and spine!
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BTW, I forgot to mention, you can definitely bend the knee of the lifted leg to keep the back long too. I could do a whole other post on that. For now, let’s end with a colorful song devoted to one’s side.  Here’s Coco Rosie’s “By Your Side (ahem, front-ish)” ENJOY!