Let me introduce you to our Yoga Sthira (calm) - breathing class.
I promise you this will not be a description of the class as we have one on our website and app! We are instead celebrating another victory to yoga, its findings, and practices. And we are very satisfied to verify again the yoga we been taught and pass on on our studio, a more traditional approach full of modern research done by the Gurus, Dr Gitananda and Dr Ananda, yes, our gurus are (western medicine) doctors. Thank you to my teachers and their teachers for all your enlightenment.
And, thank you to our fellow Yoga1 Student - who comes regularly to our Yoga Sthira breathing class - who sent me a fantastic article from the magazine New Scientist which touches exactly on the subject of breath.
The headline is "How to breathe your way to better memory and sleep". And then, a worrying fact, the author tells us that:
More than half of us breathe the wrong way, missing out on many benefits from better health.
He proceeds to say that "IT MAY be the most natural thing in the world, but breathing is surprisingly easy to get wrong – and that matters more than you might think".
He mentions the importance of nostril breading, "designed to warm or cool the air to body temperature, add moisture and trap pathogens in yet more mucus."...
As if that wasn’t enough, nasal breathing boosts brain function too. Young mouth- breathing rats were slower to complete a maze than nose breathers and, when they reached adulthood, they had fewer neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory. Studies in people reveal that we also do better on memory tests when we breathe through our noses.
In our studio, and in the Sanatan and Gitananda traditions, we stress that everything is about our breath, the quality of our breath, the efficiency and volume, and the meaning that the breath has to us.
Our Sthira class - Hathenas is primarily an anti-stress class that works on the intercostal muscles, the spine and the soft tissues of the abdominal, thoracic and neck area, including the vocal cords as we use sound (therapy). Therefore this class is to reeducate our breathing patterns, increase our oxygen intake efficiency, respiratory system cleansing, and to "calm our monkey minds", as we say in yoga, or all that normal agitation of our thoughts. This reflects on our decision making and on our social interactions, etc.
Many of us are missing out on these benefits. According to some estimates, more than 50 per cent of children and 61 per cent of adults breathe through their mouths too often. As a result, we also risk bad breath, poor sleep, learning difculties, tooth decay and even malformation of the jaw.
To the students who come to our Yoga Kriya classes, we always start with a quiet sitting and the practice of Pranayama and Dharana (focus). You will remember that we start our breathing with a count of six and we take it up from there in even numbers.
Concentrating on a long, slow exhalation also stimulates the vagus nerve, which is in charge of the rest-and-digest response, the opposite of ght or ight. Breathing more slowly still might even lull you into an altered state of consciousness. At three breaths per minute, theta brainwaves increase, together with a zoned-out state that looks like slow- wave sleep, a deep state of slumber.
If you follow a six counting, you will be taking about 4 breaths a minute. If you increase your count, you will be reducing this number, even more, bringing benefits that we learn in our teacher training and inducing you to your states of Dhyana (meditation). Yes, meditation starts with the breath too!
That is why our Yoga Kriya class, our beginner-friendly class, is done with the rhythm of the breath, trying to extend our oxygen management and body functions, what sports science is now discovering and call it altitude training. Let me tell you that you don't have to go to. the Himalayas to breathe better. And - of course, you know I'd tell you that - you just have to come to us, evidently!
For the yogin(i) that is studying yoga for some time, we acknowledge the existence of a life force, which we call Prana. Prana is primarily obtained through our breath. And we use the practice of pranayama to expand this life force.
It is important, however, to have in mind that this breathing, like everything, must have an intention, a blissful search or meaning so we can condition positively our brain and don't make this just the physiological process of respiration, which is autonomic (and can go unrecognised). You should always build on your inner strength, peace, and harmony so you can handle better your karmic past and become more resilient to what life is still to through at you.
It works, though it requires patience and japa, repetition. Better breathing, better awareness, more mind processing, and contentment with our life. And then hope that our daily yoga practice will reflect in our daily life.
Come and try our Yoga Sthira (Calm)It is not an easy class. In fact, our calm classes are the most challenge ones as we are not very good at relaxing!
Marcio da Rosa