Complete Yogic Breathing for Health, Calmness and Concentration

 

 

If you are alive, you are breathing. A remarkable aspect of the respiratory system is that it can work automatically, that is without our conscious intervention; but the breathing system can also be directed by our conscious mind. In yoga we know that the quality of our breath has a powerful influence in the quality of our life, in the way we feel physically, mentally and emotionally.

As a student of yoga I have been exploring a variety of ways of breathing for a number of years and i remember that it was quite confusing to know how i was “supposed” to breathe during the practice of yogic postures. Most of us, are never trained in the art of breathing and thus it is not surprising that we may not be very aware of the wide range of options that we have for breathing. For instance, on a regular basis I notice that some people, in order to calm the mind and feel peaceful, try to take “a deep breath” as a forceful inhalation into the upper chest, and they experience some confusion when they feel that “deep breaths” seem to have the opposite effect to the one they are looking for. The explanation is that breathing intensely into the upper chest tends to generate a response of alarm and, in many people, it can also create a feeling of anxiety.

When exploring breathing techniques, it is common to come across the word diaphragmatic breathing. However, i have learned that the definition of diaphragmatic breathing is different for different people. Some people even argue that all breathing (with very few exceptions) is diaphragmatic because it involves the diaphragm, the main muscle in the breathing process.

The video below offers a, hopefully simple, approach to breathing that guides you into deep and easeful complete breaths in a way that connects you with the complete range of movement of the diaphragm. I find that breathing in this way can help us improve our general health, it can calm our mind and it can be a helpful tool to focus the mind. Please keep in mind that there is no need to struggle, strain or force. This is important! The breath needs to flow without abruptness and without any agitation. Notice towards the end of the video that there is a way to make this exercise even more powerful.

Since many of us have not been practicing this type of breath,it may take several weeks for us to grow in our awareness of the expansion of the torso. So, this way of breathing can also teach us how to be patient. It is worth giving this exercise your time and attention every day. As you do, notice the effect that complete yogic breathing has on you at all levels. I hope that you enjoy breathing this way and I invite to try this way of breathing during the practice of yoga postures and before practicing meditation.
Enjoy the journey of becoming intimate with your breath.

Namaste,

rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Savor your breath: easy breathing exercise

Fall in love with your breath or at least befriend your breath.
Allow your breath be your guide to the present moment. Let your breath be the vehicle for awareness; guiding your movements and focusing your mind while at the same time refreshing and nourishing you.

Often pranayama is translated as breath control, however, ayama in Sanskrit means to stretch, expand, extend. From that perspective it make sense that pranayama is about expanding our breath so that our breath and the vital energy it carries reach every part of our body. Thus, make your pranayama practice an exercise in becoming well acquainted with your breath, with how your breath flows for each inhalation and each exhalation. Allow this exploration to be guided by respectful curiosity instead of ambition.

If we recognize that each breath is unique and that we have no chance to repeat it we maybe more likely to appreciate and savor each and every breath. I would even suggest to make the breath joyful and to incorporate this joyful awareness of your breath into your day, whenever you can. Certainly, incorporate this awareness during your yoga practice and just observe what unfolds…

Below is a simple breathing exercise to increase our breath awareness:

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Savor your breath.
Namaste,

rubén

 

Being Effective: How to stay focused on the present

park/parque

Very often we go into a thought pattern that goes something like this:

  • “I am not where I want to be” or
  • “I am not where I think I should be” or
  • “I am not where I need to be” or
  • “I am not where I would like to be” or
  • “I am not where I was to be”.

This is not unusual. On the contrary is something many of us deal with on a regular basis. Actually, if we observe our mind we will most likely notice a tendency to give our attention to other times and places by going into planning mode, into expectation, speculation and other future-oriented ideas. Another common distraction is giving our attention to remembering or regretting and other past-oriented ideas.

I am not saying that it cannot be helpful, useful or productive at mental, psychological and emotional levels to engage with past or future. However, the only place where we can be effective is in the only place where we can act. That moment is here and now. If we are constantly thinking about other times and places, it is difficult for us to give our complete attention to our current experience. As a result, we may miss some of the details and feedback that help us fine tune our actions.

If you find yourself distracted, you can use this simple and easy technique to help you be effective by focusing on the present. This exercise can be done in a sitting, standing, walking or lying down position:

  • Lengthen your spine
  • Ask yourself, “Where am I? Am I here?”
  • Observe your natural breath and on the inhalation mentally say, “I”
  • On the exhalation mentally say, “am”
  • On the next inhalation mentally say, “here”
  • On the next exhalation mentally say, “now”
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

Notice how you feel. Immerse fully in your present moment, circumstances and situation and see if there is more clarity as to what deserves your full attention right here right now.

Yoga is only useful if it helps us show up fully for our lives.

I hope you enjoy this technique and that you find it useful.
Namaste

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

Take a Deep Breath : Calming & Relaxing Breath

Take a deep breath yoga/Respira profundamente

A simple exercise that can be used to start practicing yoga at home

I think many people, if not everybody, have heard this simple and valuable piece of advice: “if something is bothering you or you are feeling anxious, take a deep breath.” It seems quite simple and helpful. As a result of observing my breath during my daily yoga practice for several years I have come to realize how the breath is the foundation of most, if not all, yoga techniques and how it could be argued that all of the postures and movements are basically a way to expand and deepen our breath. However, as I observe how students in my individual and group classes breathe I notice a remarkable yet not surprising trend, very often taking a deep breath does not look like a relaxing and invigorating experience. In fact, for a high number of people taking a deep breath seems to create more tension and even anxiety. What I notice is that the intention is correct, to deepen the breath; but when the actions include lifting up the shoulders and tensing up the jaw the effect is not calming and relaxing at all.

From a simple anatomical perspective a slouching posture tends to limit our breathing capacity by limiting the expansion of the ribcage. Try this: Take a moment, sit in a chair and let your chest collapse onto the abdominal area, round your shoulders forward and lower your chin slightly toward your chest. Then try to take 3 deep breaths. Notice the overall effects in body, mind and general state of being. Now let’s try a different posture to notice any difference(s): Slide your sitting bones to the front end of your chair. Separate your feet hip-width distance apart or slightly wider. See if it feels comfortable to align the knees above the ankles. Spread your toes, press your feet down, and activate the muscles in your legs to create a solid foundation. Then tuck the tailbone in to make the pelvis level and press down your sitting bones against the seat. With this solid foundation lengthen your spine and lift your breastbone up rather than forward. Let your arms fall to the sides and open comfortably while rolling your shoulders back and shoulder blades down. Now try 3 rounds of breath starting with soft belly expanding then allow the expansion to continue in your ribcage and finally in the upper chest without any tension in shoulders or jaw. Once again, notice the overall effects in your body, mind and general state of being. Most likely you will notice a difference in the length of the breath and its effects. You can even try to breathe the second way again and compare it with breathing while lifting your shoulders and bringing the chest forward. Through your own experience you will notice which way of breathing is deeper and most importantly which way of breathing feels more calming and relaxing. Please remember that no yoga technique creates new pain or strain. If you find yourself straining or forcing you are trying too hard. So, please make sure that your breath is never strained, ever.

In yoga we are trying to integrate all aspects of our being. This simple exercise is an excellent example of how our posture can influence our way of breathing as well as the way we feel overall. My suggestion is that the next time we need to take a deep breath we start by creating a solid foundation through our posture. Also, if you don’t have much time to practice yoga at home, this simple breathing exercise would be the best way to start practicing yoga at home, especially since it does not take more than a few minutes and the effects will be beneficial. If you practice regularly you will notice that in addition to feeling more calm and relaxed you might also feel more energized. Over time you may even notice that your breath may start expanding gradually. Moreover, by paying close attention to your breath you will also be immersing in the present moment which will help you notice more clearly your immediate circumstances and how you feel. This is the foundation for mindfulness.

Please let me know if you find this breathing exercise helpful. Thank you for reading and savor your breath!
Namaste,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica - Enero 2012 Retiro Yoga en Costa Rica

As suggested in every practice is a retreat , when we remove distractions our practice helps us notice our habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling. These habitual ways of being tend to limit our level of awareness and clarity. Certainly making each practice into a retreat is a valuable tool for all of us. Obviously, the power of actually withdrawing away from our usual surroundings is unsurpassed because our awareness heightens in response to a new environment and circumstances. In January this year I felt very honored and grateful to guide a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. Our group soon came together with a heartfelt sense of camaraderie and friendship clearly inspired by the beauty of the pristine rainforest, the welcoming people and atmosphere, the inviting practice spaces as well as the delicious food prepared and served with much love. I am happy to announce that we will return to our yoga haven in Costa Rica in January 2012. If you are interested in letting go of the stress and tension of the year and to start 2012 feeling refreshed, balanced and invigorated this retreat is for you:

  • 5 nights/6 days retrea
  • Arrive: Sunday January 1st
  • Begin: Monday, January 2nd
  • Return: Sunday, January 8th
  • Cost: US$1299

This is a retreat that is tailored to participants at all levels, so that each person’s level of practice benefits from a gradual natural unfolding. You are welcome to read some of the reactions to this year’s retreat.

For more information, visit http://stpeteyoga.com/retreats/CostaRicaSamasati2012.html or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664.

Enjoy the day!
Namaste,

 

 

Free Yoga Classes in September at New Tampa Regional Library

I am glad to announce that thanks to the support of the New Tampa Regional Library and the The Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County I’ll be offering FREE classes at the New Tampa Regional Library in September. Starting tomorrow, every Thursday (8, 15, 22, 29), 6-7pm, a Yoga for Well Being class for students at all levels.
Bring your mat, comfortable clothing and let’s breathe and move together.

Location: New Tampa Regional Library 10001 Cross Creek Blvd, Tampa, FL 33647-2581. Telephone: 813.273.3652

January 2011: Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica!

Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

I hope your week is going very well.

Often I have been asked if I lead yoga retreats. I love teaching where I live so that I can offer students opportunities to practice consistently. However, for a while I have wanted to offer a Yoga retreat to help students deepen their practice in a beautiful location. Finally, everything has come together and I am really excited to share this opportunity with you. The idea is to set the tone for the new year with a week in a sustainable retreat in the Costa Rican rain forest, practicing yoga in the morning, enjoying the surrounding area during the day, and coming together again for a gentle yoga practice and deep relaxation yoga nidra session before dinner. In this way you can let go of the previous year and start the year balanced, truly refreshed and focused. I am attaching a flyer with more information.

Please notice that there is a reduced price if you pay in full by September 21st.

We are organizing the retreat through St Petersburg Yoga and there is lots more information about the trip on the website: www.StPeteYoga.com/retreats

I know this trip will be a joyful and fun experience.

Namaste,
rubén

Yoga video for beginners in English AND Spanish: Yoga Here + Now

Yoga Here + Now/ + Yoga Aquí + Ahora

Great news!

I am very happy to have time to write on the blog again. This time I would like to share the great news that my first Yoga video for beginners is finally ready! This video, one of the only videos for beginners produced in both English and Spanish, is the result of the generosity of my family, the continuous support and help of many friends, teachers and students. Thank you very much for all your help and support, special thank s to Camilla, Luz Vi & Adolf, Adri & Carlos, Natalia, Daniel Medina and Nicolás Ospina and everybody who made this dream come true. I really hope that the video will be useful to people who want to start practicing Yoga at home.

This DVD is a complete practice designed with beginners in mind. It includes:

  • 7 different sessions ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • 1 special session focused on relaxation, breathing and meditation, particularly useful to release stress.
  • Basic principles spelled out in easy-to-understand language.
  • Bilingual edition, in both Spanish and English.
  • Guided pranayama (breathing) and meditation practice in each session.

Video Samples

Pranayama

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Ujjayi Breath

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Asana Practice I

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Asana Practice II

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Asana Practice III

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

More information

For more information and to order the DVD: www.yoga-here-now.com

Namaste.

 

 

5 minute yoga practice to ease into sleeping

bedroom / habitacion

The main objective of yoga is to integrate all aspects of our being in the present moment. Often we find that in spite of, and perhaps because of, our efforts to bring about this integration, at the end of the day we might find ourselves tense and unable to fall asleep. A common recommendation to help us fall asleep is to establish a relaxing routine before going to bed.
Here is a simple 7 minute relaxing Yoga practice to help you ease yourself towards a restful night. (If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )
Once you are ready to go to bed, wearing comfortable clothes in a quiet dimly-lit space in your bedroom follow these steps:

Restful Mountain

With your back gently resting on a wall, stand in mountain pose, feet hip-width apart, feet parallel.
Shift your body weight gradually from one foot to the other a few times. Find your point of balance, where your body weight is equally distributed on both feet and legs. Close your eyes and observe your breath for 5 rounds of natural, spontaneous breath.

Easy Forward Bend

Step away from the wall and inhale lifting your ribcage up without any strain. As you exhale, bend forward allowing your knees to bend as much as it feels right for you. Point the crown of your head towards the floor and reach with each hand for the opposite upper arm or forearm. Allow your eyes to close and your lower back to get long effortlessly. Let go of the experiences of the day as you continue breathing comfortably.

Gentle Twist

Recline on a blanket on the floor with your back and back of your pelvis resting with ease on the floor. Bend your knees and separate your feet a little bit wider than your shoulders. Allow your arms to rest a comfortable distance away from your torso. Inhale expanding your chest and, on exhalation drop your knees gradually to the right without any strain or effort. The next time you inhale return to center and on the following exhalation drop the knees to the opposite side. Repeat a couple of times. The last time, stay with your knees to each side for 3 or 4 breaths, focusing your attention to this process. When you are done return to center.

For the last two parts, move to your bed.

Connect to your Breath

Lie down on your back with your knees slightly bent. Close your eyes. Observe your breath and gradually start to soften and lengthen each exhalation. Do these for 5 to 10 rounds of breathing and then let go of any control over your breath.

Gratitude

Lying on your back, stretch your legs out and make your self as comfortable as possible.
Close your eyes and from your heart appreciate and give thanks for all the love, goodness and abundance in your life. Allow your face to soften and bring a gentle smile to your face reflecting the gratitude in your heart. Immerse in this sensation and relax completely.

Diagram of 5 minute Yoga practice for sleeping

5 min yoga for sleeping

I hope this practice will help you sleep better and more easily.

Namaste.

 

Simple guided meditation with Rubén