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

 

Guided Gratitude Meditation audio

In order to complement the previous post on Gratitude Meditation here is a brief (7.5 minutes) guided gratitude meditation.



Enjoy.

Namaste.

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

FREE Video: Yoga postures for Lower Back Pain, Hip Flexibility and Thigh Flexibility Breath

 

Yoga Postures to Release Lower Back Pain

This is a brief 12 minute video to help release tightness and tension from the lower back and to help increase mobility and flexibility in the hip joints and thighs. This session can be practiced in the morning, after exercising, at the end of the day or in preparation for sleeping. Patient persistence is the way of yoga, and it is IMPORTANT to remember that creating pain, forcing, numbness and tingling are not part of Yoga.

If you have chronic pain please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

After the practice you can check if you feel better than you felt before the practice, this is an indication that the practice is working and that you are practicing correctly.
I hope you enjoy the practice and its benefits

Namaste.

 

Learn Yoga Breathing: Ujjayi Breath

 

Ujjayi Breath : Conquering or Victorious Breath

In order to complement the previous post on inspired breathing here is a brief video that may help clarify how to practice the powerful and beneficial ujjayi breath.



One simple and helpful reminder as you try this is to do it in the spirit of falling in love with your breath! Enjoy.

Namaste.

 

More Yoga resources in English and Spanish coming soon

Namaste,

It has been a few months since I posted something on the blog. As I continue working with students individually, in group classes, in workshops, retreats, teacher training and mentoring I continue finding areas where students and practitioners have relevant and useful questions that can help us grow in our understanding and in making our yoga authentic. Most importantly these questions always suggest the need to bring authentic yoga into our lives. Over the last few months I have been exploring options to contribute through my new website: www.rubenvasquez.com and a new YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/RubenVasquezYoga

I am currently developing new content also for the blog so that I can provide more resources both in English and Spanish. Please stay tuned and if you wish to stay informed of new developments join my FREE mailing list.

Thank you to all my teachers and from my heart love, joy, health & prosperity to you,

rubén

 

Yoga: Retreat into Presence

Just returned from another heartwarming yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I do know that every practice is a retreat,yet there is nothing like physically removing ourselves from our everyday lives to notice more clearly our own habitual ways of thinking, being, feeling, moving and breathing. Just as we do in most, if not all yoga practices, reducing distractions is a sound first step.

During the retreat we used a simple approach.
Our intention was to move towards greater Presence, that is towards our full participation in the present moment by:

Presence : Pause Listen Clarify Trust - yoga is being present

Pausing
Taking a brief moment in order to let go of all other moments, times and spaces
Listening
Tuning into our senses and noticing the unfolding of life, one moment at a time
Clarifying
Distinguishing what is from our preconceived ideas and automatic-habitual reactions
Trusting
Aligning with the silent whisper of our heart with confidence that its guidance is appropriate, applicable and relevant

These simple steps inspired us to act with heartfelt intention, to breath with integrity and to engage our bodies mindfully towards participating wholeheartedly and harmoniously in our every moment. Since we had minimized distractions we used our infinite time mindset to inform our playful exploration of a wide range of yogic tools. Every day we applied mindful breathing (pranayama), chanting (japa), postures and movement (asana & vinyasa), yogic relaxation (yoga nidra), mindful use of our senses (pratyahara) as well as reflection, discussion (satsanga), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) to deepen our practice, to uncover and remove restrictions, old patterns and pain.

Throughout the retreat we engaged in the study, reflection and application (svadhyaya) of the first four sutras in chapter 1 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra:

  • 1.1 Yoga happens only now, its study and practice requires our preparation and full participation here and now.
  • 1.2 Yoga is the reduction of agitation and noise in our mind, breath, body and heart.
  • 1.3 Stability in our mind, breath, body and heart lets our inner witness be established in pure awareness.
  • 1.4 Otherwise, we misidentify ourselves with the temporary labels we have been acquiring over the years.

In our inward journey we had the inspiration of the breathtaking Costa Rican tropical rainforest surrounding us. Inspired by the abundance of life and the exuberant foliage, we noticed how each leaf, each insect and every single animal contributes its uniqueness to their environment without trying, just by being. Nature provided powerful inspiration guiding us to sleep as the day light dimmed into profound darkness, enveloping us in the sound of falling rain. The guttural growls of the howler monkeys lulled us into sleep and woke us up every morning. At every turn we were captivated by the magnificent hues of blue of the morpho butterflies,the unusual colors of bright red and dark blue poison dart frogs, , the precise and purposeful movements of hummingbirds, colorful toucans and countless other birds , the deep colors of innumerable flowers like red ginger, bright orange heliconias, dazzling, birds of paradise, vivid hibiscus, and myriad intricate bromeliad blooms. The unbelievable beauty around us made it easy to disconnect from our contemporary communication technologies and to savor the joy of quiet.

Besides, the warmth of our hosts at Samasati Nature retreat, the delightful and plentiful vegetarian meals and the rustic comfort of our accommodations made our retreat the best way to deepen our yoga practice and to help us align with awareness to begin the New Year.

With grateful heart I am enjoying my return to the place I call home while I am already taking tiny steps to guide another retreat later this year.

May your year be filled with love, joy and awareness.
Namaste.

 

Talleres de Yoga en Bogotá con Rubén Vásquez Noviembre 19 al 24

¡Estoy feliz de poder regresar a Bogotá a compartir el Yoga con los yoguis y yoguinis Colombianos del 19 al 24 de Noviembre!

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

INTRODUCCIÓN A PRANAYAMA & MEDITACIÓN
¡Establece una base sólida para tu práctica de pranayama y meditación!
Domingo 20 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Lunes 21 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Martes 22 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

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,

 

 

Every Practice is a Retreat

Giardino di Ninfa - Italy

Always Doing

Most of us seem to be in constant movement from activity to activity, from thought to thought. It seems like there are very few, if any, times during our regular day when we are not doing something. It is clear, as it says in the Bhagavad Gita that being part of the world we are obliged to act (B.G. 3.8). However, it is also important to balance our activities with times when we slow down and shift our mode of acting and doing in order to relax and replenish our energy. Most often, the people I talk to and the yoginis and yogis who come to practice with me, regardless of their stage in life, occupation or gender, say that relaxing moments are generally scarce.

Unconscious Patterns

Moreover, our human inclination towards habit formation frequently results in physical, mental and emotional patterns that we cultivate daily. As we become very practiced in these habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling, their patterns accumulate in our bodies, hearts and minds and become our unconscious normal state of being and doing. For instance, if we spend several hours every day sitting in front of the computer, our bodies will find ways to adjust to this activity. Eventually, some muscles will be chronically tight and other muscles will be overstretched and without muscular tone, the joints and organs will also adjust. It is only natural that over time these adaptations affect our posture, our breathing, our ways of moving and walking and even our ways of thinking and feeling.

Retreat

A retreat is a conscious decision to pause, that is, to remove ourselves from our regular environment and activities. As a result, we create the opportunity to notice how we move, breath, think and express ourselves. As we notice the patterns that we have been cultivating over time, we can see if they are deliberate and conscious and if they serve a purpose aligned with our intentions. Every time we step onto our yoga mat we can choose to immerse in a personal retreat. That is, we can choose to convert our practice into a safe environment where we can explore mindfully the spaciousness of our breath, body, mind and heart. Wherever we find restrictions we can take time to discover ways to diminish or dissolve those restrictions. Quite often finding an obstruction gives us with insight into some of the causes for the restriction. Thus, we can investigate those causes and move towards greater awareness.

In other words, our practice time is time to dedicate to deepen our own intimacy with ourselves so that we recognize how our actions, movement, breath, thoughts and feelings are facilitating or obstructing our path towards the goal we have set for ourselves and our lives. It is possible that during difficult times we may feel that we don’t have time for our practice. But that is the time when we need to immerse into our retreat so that we can collect ourselves and clarify our needs, priorities and challenge. Seeing our practice as a retreat for ourselves can help us recognize that the practice is never a chore or something that we do because “it is supposed to be good for us.” Instead, we can cherish the practice time as an opportunity to remember what is truly important so that we can cultivate it and prepare to share it with the world.

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