Welcome back! I hope that your practice is finding its way into your daily routine. Maybe it has begun to help you relax through your day, cope with stress and move through your moments more spaciously. Yoga and mindfulness is really the heart of this practice; finding space. Rather than rushing to fill it we breathe into it and allow it to fill us.
Breath work is such an important part of our yoga and mindfulness practice because it is the most fundamental function that connects us with life. Breathing deeply especially clean, fresh outside air has many benefits for both our mental clarity and our physiology. This practice is referred to as Pranayama and is the fourth limb of yoga. We discussed previously that there are eight limbs to create a path of fulfilled and right living. Breathing helps muscles relax, cleanses the lungs, increases energy levels and stabilizes the circulatory system. Of course, it also positively influences mood. Our lungs are housed in the torso between the tops of our shoulders and the bottom of our rib cage!
* Yoga challenge: next time you feel groggy or anxious take a deep breath filling your lung cavity and imagine yourself strong and clear. Take three breaths this way connecting to your powerful life force!
Let’s begin with a standing pose and be mindful that we can breathe peace into any part of our day.
Warrior II Pose / Virabhadrasana II
Begin in mountain pose (covered it in week one of the series). Exhale one leg back into a lunge position. Lift your arms so they are level with your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Position your back foot so that it is at a 90 degree angle and align your front heel with your back heel. To get the most out of this pose, turn your front knee slightly outward so it aligns with your ankle. Press through your heels and strengthen your thighs. Ideally, your front thigh will be perpendicular to the floor. Hold for three deep breaths and release (come out of the pose) on an inhale. Switch sides.
*Modification: The intensity of the pose is correlated to the depth of your lunge. Remember to line up your knee with your toes!
To transition you may choose tadasana or mountain pose and shake out your legs.
Warrior III Pose / Virabhadrasana III
This pose invokes the power of a fierce warrior. It is best to begin in a lunge position. Make sure to keep your knee aligned with your toes to avoid injury. The back leg is straight, your back is relaxed and quads engaged. This pose is a balancing pose that focuses breath, concentration and activates your core. From a lunge position lay your torso on your thigh and place your hands on either side of your knee. Extend through your spine and lift the back leg slowly as you counter balance the pose to keep its integrity. You do not want to lean too far forward. Your back leg will eventually be level with your spine. Hold this pose for 30 seconds or 3 breaths before switching sides.
*Modification: Place a chair in front of you to support your balance while you experience this pose. You may also keep the back leg closer to the floor while you practice balance.
These poses are variations of each other and you may use them in any order you like. I chose to group them simply because they are both standing postures that work to strengthen large muscle groups and improve balance. They require a certain amount of focus for this reason making it a perfect time to practice breath work. Go slow, listen to your body and know that over time your balance will improve.
The secret of yoga is finding a place within each pose where you can relax without strain or tension. The goal for you may be to find space to decompress, become more flexible or just move your body, but the trick is aligning your center of gravity with mindful awareness. The point at which both your mind can be empty and your body strong enough to hold the poses without feeling like its torture, is a beautiful harmony. Enjoy the process and remember to just breathe.
Until next time, Namaste!