New yoga students are often worried that they are not flexible enough to do yoga. There is an assumption here that yoga is defined by posturing alone : what we call asana in yoga.
Anyone out there who still thinks that their lack of flexibility is an obstacle to yoga can stop worrying and start thinking that they want to do yoga to GET flexible and toned.
There is however another consideration when starting your yoga journey and that is the importance of the breath. In many ways this is THE most important consideration and often lost in the translation of how practising yoga makes us look good especially when we are parading around in our fancy new yoga gear and trying to get into these weird and wonderful aesthetic positions.
Correcting your breathing could be your first consideration when starting yoga.
It has been said that correct breathing is the thing that glues everything together in our yoga practice. Yet it is often not till students have been practising sometimes for years that they come to realise this.
Our breathing experience in practice is probably closer to the true nature of yoga than asanas can ever be and that is why it is wise to cultivate a more nourishing relationship with that wonderful phenomena that we have known about since birth but hardly noticed or appreciated.
If you are budding yoga student be sure to find out as much if not more about the breahting side of the practice when you go to classes.
In the early days you practice should be navigated with good breathing in mind.
Some of this can be usefully done IN posture even using simple warm up movements with considered inhalations and exhalations. It can also be done in relaxation beginning to cultivate an awareness of the Passive Breath and later working with yogas more controlled breathing techniques. The passive breath is often deemed boring by beginner students who cannot understand the need for it. Early on students are easily distracted from this practice as it has little value to the mind. It has been shown however that observing the passive breath while in relaxation allows it to perform more naturally than when we are distracted by conversation, eating, reading TV etc etc. Over time the passive breath BECOMES more interesting. We begin to form a more intimate relationship with the various nuances of the breath cycle and thus are able to keep with it for longer. This process also bears the wonderful gift of a calmer and more relaxed body and mind.
The increased tempo of our breathing in asana and the introduction of controlled breath techniques adds more strength and dimension and over time some of the tension that we have built into our lungs and the deep tissues of our muscles of respiration begin to release allowing us to feel more calmer.
Becasue we also learn to breath more correctly while in a wide range of body positions (asanas) some quite restricted this also helps us to breath better when in other tight situations in life such as difficult meetings, confrontations and unwanted social gatherings.
So when beginning or returning to yoga or even if you have been practising for a while and "forgotten to breath" and have never quite got it, start to bring as much if not more importance to its value. Find that magic relationship that you can have and deserve to have with your breath. Don't let asana take your breath away.