Archives for posts with tag: breath

I have been so busy recently due to yoga classes and yoga teacher training program. I have been reading new books for the teacher training program and preparing documents besides ongoing yoga classes I am teaching. Of course, I am not on my own in this program. A friend of mine who is a genuine “yogini” and I have started the program. Despite all her contributions, it is not so easy to get to the classes on time and prepare the training program and go on living your own personal daily life. That is why I had to stop posting blogs, which I did not appreciate.

I welcomed the new year in a seaside town away from the city I am living. This four-day retreat was really excellent for me. I really needed such a retreat, away from the city and I was desperately in need of having some spare time in the rural area. To be alone, to just stare at the sea, to drink something while staring at the sea, to take a stroll and to spend a few days without watching the time or without having a need to hurry. So once I returned home, I sat in front of the computer to write again.

I have experienced a great deal of things since I write the last blog. Not only reading resources on yoga but also reviewing the training programs I had attended before and making a synthesis of all of them made me a progress on this path. I realized that I have been focusing on only physical aspect of yoga in my classes for a long time. However, yoga is something that cannot be thought of without the spirit, soul and the mind. As I started to deepen on the path of yoga, I started to deepen in my own yoga group classes.

In the group classes, I aimed to end the previous year by leaving everything behind, the good and the bad before welcoming the new year. The past was just the past, nothing beneficial for us but taking a lot from us. Making us sorrowful and sad. Ego or the mind liked to feed from the past and pitty for itself. So, as we were leaving behind 2017, we should not bring any burdens from that year to the new year but solve everything and leave everything behind. We should purify ourselves bodily, mentally and spiritually and get cleaned up. In 2018, we should neither focus on the past nor the future as future was one of the best friends of the mind, by which it was feeding up itself. The future was unknown and the fear and worry caused by the unknown. What was need for sorrow or fear or worry? So what should we do? What kind of a path should we draw ourselves in 2018? We should just live the moment, stay in the moment, pay attention to the “right now”, understand what “now” means and experience just the “now.” How was the yoga classes shaped up with this aim? The aim was obvious: “Just to live the moment, to stay in the moment, to pay attention to the right now and understand what now means and experience just the now.” So, what type of a class should we perform to reach this aim? A class which gives priority to the breath and focuses on the coordination and harmony of the breath and the body. Thus, we could enable the unity and harmony of the body and soul. Surely, we should also add the mind to this couple. The mind should watch and follow the body and the breath but at the same time listen to what the instructor was saying instead of doing what it knows would come the next. We should do “vinyasa”s (flow) different from the flows the class was used to and confuse the mind. Thus, the mind would not do what it knows and walk on the path it knows but stay in the moment and do something by being totally aware not automatically. If you ask what was the most important decision we made for the new year… To stay in the moment, to live the moment, and to be totally aware, to work with full unity and harmony of the body, mind and soul even if it was hard in the daily life and even if we cannot do it in our daily lives,

 

When I go to my yoga classes, I usually have some flow to pratice that day and believe me, what I have in mind is mostly what the students need that day. What a coincidence, isn’t it? However, some days I want to just show up in the class and get inspired by the students. I go to the class almost half an hour before the session begins, put my yoga mat and I either meditate or lay down supine to relax and rest. When people show up in class, I chat with them and this conversations mostly ends with a yoga plan in my mind. This is exactly what happened a few days ago.

When I went to class, no one had arrived yet. I put my yoga mat on the floor and I laid down to “supta baddha konasana” (reclined bound angle pose). I closed my eyes and totally surrendered my body on the floor. I calmed my breath down and rested before the class began. The students were showing up one after the other. When they came, I left the pose and started to talk to them That evening, our class was a “yin” (female energy) class. Our aim was to relax the bodies and minds on the last week day.

In “yin yoga”, we do not have so many options. As this type of yoga focuses on the sacroiliac joint, hip joint and the thigh bone and it aims to stretch even the deep connective tissues for a genuine relaxation, the “asana”s (pose) are limited. But that evening, I wanted to practice something different but I did not know what when one of the students helped me find what I was looking for. He inspired me.

Before the class began, one of the students had asked whether we could work on “vishuddha chakra” (throat chakra). We had practiced this chakra in our “vinyasa” (flow) classes before and the students was willing to know whether we could also work the same chakra during a yin yoga session. Why not? Surely, we could.

Meanwhile, a new student with “scoliosis” in her throacal spine arrived in the class. I talked to her and learned about her story. I looked into her spine and made some recommendations to her to pay attention during the class. Surely, I would also keep an eye on her during the entire class.

Suddenly, something came up in my mind. That day, we would not only stretch the chest but also stimulate the throat chakra. I could not only make the new students benefit from the class by stretching the chest but also make the other student happen by stimulating the throat chakra. Also, all students would experience a different type of yin yoga class.

We began the class in “supta baddha konasana” to stretch the chest. We rolled the yoga mats and placed it under the scapulato raise the chest and stretch it this way. I asked the students to close their eyes, direct their breath towards the chest and to fill their lungs with oxygen. After staying in the pose for about five minutes, we dropped the bodies to the right side and came to a sitting position.

We stayed at least four minutes in poses like “melting heart” and “sphinx” to stretch and open up the chest. In sphinx pose, we turned the neck to right and left and dropped it to the chest and lift it up the ceiling to stimulate the throat chakra. We rested in “balasana” (child pose) after all these poses. We were stimulating the “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) and letting the “energy of love” rise out of our bodies.

For the throat chakra and the shoulder girdle, we opened up our arms on both sides of shoulders and worked out wrist flexion and extension. Then we accelerated the blood flow in arms with “finger fans.” With “broken wings” we stretched shoulders and relieved the scapula. We stimulated the lung and heart meridians with these poses.

The other throat chakra poses were “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) after “twisted roots”. When everybody was in “savasana”, I got into “supta baddha konasana” , my favorite pose. The lights turned off, the class dark, the class peaceful and the instrumental version of “What a wonderful world.”

It was hard for every one to wake up from “savasana.” What did I feel during the class? Was it so hard to listen to the voice of our hearts instead of our minds? Weren’t we happier and more peaceful when we listened to our hearts? Actually, wasn’t it the heart that knew the very right for us? So why were we always listening to the mind and were unhappy? Could we feel the vibrations of love in our heart? With the love in our hearts, could we speak out good words? Could we express ourselves in a right way? Could others understand what I was saying in the right way? “Let’s wish to listen to our hearts and do what it says as well as establishing right and accurate communication from now on. I bow in front of my dear student for he has become a source of inspiration for me. Namas’te my dear student.”

We had worked on and practiced two different types of classes during yoga teacher training program. One of them was a circular class and the other one was a class with a peak pose. After I had started teaching yoga, I preferred classes with a peak pose. I prepare the bodies and minds to the peak pose in the first half of the class and I neutralize, relieve and make the bodies rest in the second half of the class. Last week in one of the group classes, one of the students asked whether we could do something “mixed” that day, a class that included everything. At that moment, I remembered the circular-style class.

After the opening meditation, we warmed up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Once the bodies were warmed up, we focused on standing asanas. We were refreshing the bodies with a “vinyasa” (flow) after each “asana” (pose) and then we were practicing another “asana.” Moreover, we were doing a “vinyasa” immediately after we did the right side in assymetrical poses. This way, the class was lika an “ashtanga yoga” class. But of course, I was not a professional at “ashtanga yoga” series but when I decided to teach a circular-style yoga, the class looked like an “ashtanga yoga” class.

We went on with forward bends and backbends. We were practicing two or three “asana”s from each asana group. Twists, core strengtheners and hip openers. One “asana” followed by a “vinyasa”… It was hot, the class was hot, the “agni” (element fire) in us was burning and maybe this was the first time that I had ever practiced such an active class like that with this group.

In the end came inversions. Since the class was cosmopolitan with the beginners and the advanced students, I asked the students to choose among “salamba sirsasana” (supported headstand), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I was thinking just one thing at the end of the class. Why do I love and prefer classes with a peak pose? I guess I have found the answer. I do not like monotonous things. I do not like to know the next move and to act by knowing what is coming the next. I loved the unknown. “To live the moment”, “to stay in the moment”, “to be happy and peaceful without knowing what the next moment will bring but just to live that single moment.” I loved that. When we live by knowing the next step, the mind has already known everything and it moves before the body and the breath, i.e. the mind. Then we become people directed and steered by the mind. We become puppets. However, it is possible to live just the “moment” and be happy. And this is what I am trying to do.

I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway June 21, the summer solstice, has passed away. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the summer solstice?

Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted.

What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be aggressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forward bends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons maybe only by asanas; or by asanas, pranayama and meditation; or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.

 

 

“Teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

One of the students told me all these things in one of the yoga group classes last week. That day, we were working on “vayu”s (wind/air flow/energy flows in the body). Therefore that class was a bit different and more spiritual than any other yoga classes. We were working on some “asana”s (pose) related to the energy flows and trying to observe towards where the body was moving  and how the body was moving together with the breath.

When we were resting in “balasana” (child pose) in-between the flows, one of the students said, “teacher, I can see the advantages and benefits of yoga classes in my daily life. Yoga has changed my daily life. I have turned into a very different person. A recent incident helped me once more see how yoga is beneficial to me.”

The other students and I wondered what had happened to the student and asked her to tell the whole story. At that point, the student said,”teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

“I remembered the opening meditation and overviewed what we were doing in that meditation. I remembered that we closed our eyes and focused on the breath. I inhaled and exhaled and started to count my breath. I tried to realize at which part of the body the breath was moving. At first, I panicked and my breath was shallow. Then I closed my eyes and tried to leave my mind aside and shut it down. Then the breath started to calm down. And I started to take longer breath. I could deepen the breath from my chest to the abdomen and even to the pelvic floor. The deeper my breath was, I was calmer. As I kept my eyes closed, I was calmer. I concentrated my mind on my breath. A while later, my breath was so calm that it almost stopped. My body was no more tense but relaxed.”

“At that very moment, I realized your words. Bad news, nothing lasts forever. Good news, nothing last forever. Nothing is permament. Everything changes. We were closing the eyes and focusing on our breath in order to silence the mind in yoga “asana”s in which we really have difficulties. We were trying to connect the body and the breath. This was one of the moments which was really hard for me. And, I told myself that it was not permanent and it would last soon. And I believed in what I was telling myself. I hadn’t realized before how yoga got a part of my daily life. It was the first time I realized that I was applying to yoga in the moments I really felt difficulties and problems in my daiy life.”

I could not explain how happy I was to hear all the story. Yes, I am teaching yoga in gym clubs but this does not mean that yoga should be regarded just like any other physical activities. Of course, our priority is to get a good physical and body shape and look. Even though many people come to group yoga classes at gym clubs for only this goal, they start to “be yoga” in time. “To be yoga”… “To be whole bodily, spiritually and mentally.” Then in time, the goal to have spiritual and mental peace replaces the goal to get a good physical shape and look. I guess this is what yoga is and here we can find the philosophy of yoga. To get loved and adored by people just by being itself and without imposing anything or forcing anything or anyone.

I do not know why but yoga classes are considered just like other physical activities. Maybe this is because yoga classes are so wide-spread in gym clubs. Who knows? Whatever the reason is, we should separate yoga from other physical activities. Why? Because yoga is the “state of being” not a physical activity, as most people think. It is a discipline and a spiritual philosophy.

You may consider yoga as just like other activities and just as something we do with our bodies. However, it is a bit different. Yoga means the harmony of the body, soul and the mind. Yoga means to unite the body, mind and the soul. Yoga means to bring together the body, mind and the soul. That is, yoga is not a physical activity but a state of being. The only relation of yoga with physical activity is “asana”s i.e. “poses.” What we want to do in yoga classes is to keep the body and breath together with the help of “asana”s, focus the mind just on what we are doing without thinking anything else and do everything with full awareness.

What is the use of talking about all these? Yes, you may ask why I am telling you all these. Because of what happened in one of group classes last week. When we are doing the “asana”s that our body is used to, like forwardbends, most of us do not have any problems. Our spine and body is used to forward bends and rounding of he spine so we do not lose the connection of the body and the breath and we can do most of the sequence without the need of the focus of the mind. However, we start having problems in backbends, balancing poses and inversions. In these asana groups, if we do not have body-breath connection, we can have problems. We may hold breath and when we do so, the poses become more challenging, The mind is so important particularly in balancing poses and inversions. What does the mind think and how it feels? Am I afraid and am I short of breath because of my fear? Am I holding my breath? Does my mind tells me that I can do this pose or does it say that I cannot? Does my mind trust my body? Is my mind supporting me or is it preventing me?

I remembered all these questions in the group class last week in which we tried an inversion. I have been working with this group for about a year. The group had practiced with another yoga instructor before me and they are also attending pilates classes twice a week, which means they are bodily and physically strong They have enough physical power to do all “asana”s. But they are having problems in “sirsasana” (headstand), “pincha mayurasana” (forearm balance) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand). So what is the problem?

If we have enough physical power and if our core area and shoulder girdle is strong enough to do these poses, we first look into whether we are aware of this physical power. Let’s assume that we are aware. Then the second question is whether I can really use this power. Do I really engage my core muscles or do I only assume that I am engaging them? Can I use my pelvic floor muscles or do I only assume I am using them? Can I engage all my muscles or just asumme that I am doing so. If I just assume and cannot do the pose, then this means that I am not aware of my physical and bodily power and it is high time that I trust my power and be aware of it.

When we do so and we still have problems, another question comes. What am I afraid of? What prevents me from doing this pose? We may be afraid of falling. We may be afraid of falling in front of others and disgracing ourselves. We may be afraid of falling and injuring ourvselves. We may be afraid that we can break our necks. We may have different fears. It may be hard to look at the world from another perspective and change our routine perspective. We may not be afraid of standing on top of the head but we may be afraid of getting down from the pose. It may be hard to get on the top of the head but once we get there with the help of somebody else it may be so easy for us to stay there. This is where the mind is in business. At this point, yoga practice is separated from other physical activities. What does my mind think? Does my mind acts in line with my body and breath, i.e. soul or acts separately from these two? Does my mind support me or prevent me? Does my mind believe that I can do the pose or not? Does my mind focus on just what I am doing and live the exact moment with full awareness? The answer to all these questions can raise us to “sirsasana” or drop us from “sirsasana.”

That day, students got by the wall and tried “sirsasana” there. One of them could not rise in the pose but when she did so, she was feeling so safe and did not think of getting down. The other was thinking of how she could get down so she could not do the pose. Once she did, she was panicking that she could hurt her neck and she could not get down in a proper way. Another student could get half-way on her own, panicking there and forgetting to use the pelvic floor. She rose in the pose but she fell as she did not try it by the wall. Another student was trying the pose on her mat in the middle of class, not by the wall. However when she rise in the pose, she panicked as another student told her that she was doing it so well and she immediately and carelessly got out of the pose. When the mind hears “yes, you have made it”, it wants to hamper the body and it is successful in its attempt.

That day, we once more realized that we could not do “asana”s just only with the body power. If our breath does not help us, if we lose body-breath connection and if the mind does not focus on what we are doing, we may not do some asanas we consider as “challenging.” What differs yoga from other physical activities was the state of “being.” The body, soul and mind are in harmony and together and the picture that comes out of this harmony.

I am aware that I am flying once the spring has come. One of Turkish poets once said, “this beautiful weather has messed me up. I am just as the poet said. I did not want to sit in front of the computer and post a blog. Instead, I wanted to go to the countryside, watch the blue sea and enjoy my time there. But surely, this laziness should end, shouldn’t it? Back to real life and back to my posts.

In my previous post, I had wrote that our bodies changed with the spring and told you about what type of yoga we should practice in springtime. This week, our classes were just how I wrote in my blog. In some classes, we only practiced “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) while in some “vinyasa” (flow) classes we focused on backbends and balancing poses. In some “yin” (feminine energy) yoga classes, we focused on liver meridian and tried to purify the liver, which has been affeceted by the cold and long winter.

In one of classes we focused on backbends, I witnessed the progress of some of the students. I have been practicing with the same group for about a year and that day, I decided to try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. “Urdhva dhanurasana” was one of the poses in which most students have difficulties. Even though how challenging it is, students want to try this “asana” (pose) from time to time and want to get used to it and deepen in the pose.

As usual, that day, we prepared the bodies for the pose by stretching the chest, shoulder girdle and hip flexor muscles. We tried the peak pose in three stages. In the first stage, we tried “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose), in the second trial we got into “setu bandhasana” and then we put the top of the head on the ground and placed the hands on both sides of the head. In the last stage, we tried the full “urdhva dhanurasana.” Some students stayed in the second stage whereas some asked for my assistance and got in the pose that way, In the meantime, I realized the progss in two students. Both of them did the “asana” on their own. One of them was thinking that her chest was closed and her chest was making “weird” noises in backbends. I asked the student to try the pose again. She did it again, rose on her arms, took another breath and opened her chest so widely. This was one of the happiest moments in my life. To see a student progress this much in time and to observe that she was doing a pose she thought she could never do. This was the greatest happiness.

The other student was also one of the students who found “urdhva dhanurasana” the most challenging pose. That day she rose on her arms and opened her chest up. Maybe she could not lift her chest as much as desired but she tried this pose with courage and made a progress. Determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress.

Another student deeply affected me that day. I asked the students to get into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana” (wild thing pose). I realized that one of the students was so flexible and strong to do the transition however she was afraid. I stood by her to encourage her and told her that I could help her when trying. I just stood by her and encouraged. That student got into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana.”

That day, I realized that determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress. We just need to be aware of the power within us and have confidence in ourselves. And of course, we should practice a lot. We should not give up but try and try. One of yoga masters, Pattabhi Jois says: “yoga is 99 percent practice and one percent theory.”

Anatolian people believe that three radiations of heat fall into the air, water and earth to herald the beginning of spring. The first radiation fell into the air this week. Then it would fall into the water and the earth. So they would fall into my yoga classes. In order to harmonize the bodies with the changing weather conditions, I decided to teach classes in accordance with the mentioned elements. This week’s classes were about the element air.

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The raditations would start falling into the air, heralding better and warm weather conditions. The first into the air on February 20, the second into the water on February 27 and the third into the earth on March 6 (March 5 in leap years).

I should plan a flow about element air before the week began. The element air was related with “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) and the breath. It would be wise if I asked the students to use “ujjayi pranayama” (hero breath) before the class began. We should stretch the chest and a backbend should be the peak pose. Air was the main element of the “vata dosha” (body type) in Ayurveda (Indian science of living). “Vata dosha” resembles adjectives like airy, light and creative. The main feature of this body type is instability and inconstancy. “Vata dosha” controls the central nervous system. When this “dosha” is out of balance, it can lead to nervous problems, including anxiety and depression.

“Vata” is associated with not only cold, dark, dry and harsh but also light and airy. Therefore, when “vata” increases in our bodies, it is so normal to fell ourselves lighter, more airy and as if we are flying.

Normally, we prefer balancing and grounding poses in order to balance the “vata dosha.” However, this week I was planning to activate the “element air” and feel the “air” in the body. Therefore, I planned a backbend, followed by an inversion.

As we would try two peak poses at the end of the class, we should prepare the bodies for these two poses. We would strtech the chest, shoulder girdle and hip flexor muscles as well as strengthen the arms, shoulders and core muscles.

The first peak pose was “ustrasana” (camel pose). We should not forget breathing deeply in the pose. I do not know why but we forget to breathe when we backbend. Holding breath is not something we want. If the breath represents our soul, we lose the connection with our soul each time we hold our breath. We should not hold breath, particularly in classes when we work the “element air.” Because air means breath and the vice-versa.

We neutralized the body with a few “vinyasa”s (flow) after the first peak pose. Then it was time for the second: “Pincha mayurasana” (forearm balance). First we prepared the body with “ardha salamba sirsasana” (dolphin pose), and then we stayed for five breaths by first lifting the right leg up and then the left leg up. The last pose was “pincha mayurasana.” Some students jumped to the wall, some asked for my support, some never tried. Those who did not try this pose did “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose).

We balanced the body after the inversion and ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

To fell the “element air” when we backbend… To open the heart, backbend and go on breathing… To broaden the chest with our breath… To become upside down and fell the energy flowing out of our body from the top of the head… To get lighter, full of energy and reborn and revive by eliminating the burden of winter…

I cannot post a blog for some time. I just think that writing about yoga and meditation would make me seem like a person who closes her eyes to what is going on in her country, especially to increasing terror incidents in our country, economic crisis and political developments. Therefore, I did not want to post blogs on yoga and meditation. Even though I sat in front of the computer every week, I looked at the screen and then decided not to write. Actually, I do not want to write even at this very moment.

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What makes me feel happy in these days when I really feel sad and hopeless is my yoga classes. I would not even want to go out of my house even if I did not have any yoga classes. When I went to classes, I feel relieved and away from everything maybe just for an hour. I think the spirit and happiness of students in yoga “asana”s (poses) are reflected on me. And I show up on the scene just like an actress, forget all negative things and smile for an hour.

Cobbler’s children have no shoes… Me, too. Even though I do my self-practice and spend a lot of time practicing yoga and meditation, it is no use. The only thing that makes me happy these days is my yoga classes and the bliss of my students at the end of classes.

All my students were in the same mood during this time. Therefore, we focused on “hip opening poses”, “twists” and “chest opening asanas.” We tried to love more and understand others by opening our chest. With twists, we wanted to get rid of what has been kept inside for a long time and detoxifying. With hip openers, we tried to end the emotions like anger, hatred and fear. Even if it was just for an hour, we forgot all these emotions and thoughts and could breathe. Even if it was just for an hour, we could fully integrate our body, soul and mind. Even if it was just for an hour, we forgot all negative things. Even if it was just for an hour, we watched our own body and tried to realize how our breath was. Even though it was just for an hour, we purified ourselves from all thoughts and made our mind just focus on body and breath. And at the end of that one hour, we left the class with a little bit peace and happiness, which was what we longed for.

One of the main questions I come across in my yoga classes is about how breath should be used in yoga. When we are flowing in yoga classes, we inhale as we open the chest and broaden ourselves and exhale as our chest is closed and as we narrow ourselves. Whe exhale as we bend forward but inhale as we open our spine up. We, the instructors, give breathing directives to students throughout the flows. However, we still face problems and questions about breath in yoga classes. So what should be done is to elaborate on this topic.

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One of the main problems I face in yoga classes about breath is to inhale and exhale through the nose. In almost all other physical activities, we exhale through the mouth but in yoga we prefer exhaling through the nose. Those who show up in yoga class for the first time might have problems in exhaling through the nose.

The second problem is faced during “vinyasa”s (flow). People who have been practicing yoga for a long time can extend and deepen their breath however the new students cannot deepen and prolong their breath so they are out of breath during the flow. We can face such problems mostly in gym clubs because new students always show up in the gym clubs as well as group classes. Most yoga studios solve this problem by teaching basic yoga classes, advanced or intermediate classes. However, there is not such a classification in gym clubs so there can always be new ones in a group of students who have been practicing for a long time. If we are teaching an intermediate or an advanced class, we may face problems in not only “asana”s (pose) but also “vinyasa”s and breath. Advanced students can take in and out deep breath and do one “asana” in each breath but the new students need to take more than one breath throughout one “asana.”

Maybe one of the most important problems about breath is holding breath. During a “vinyasa,” we — the instructors — give breathing directives and students practice in line with the directives. However, students tend to hold breath in any “asana” we add in-between “vinyasa”s or in poses which are hard and challenging for them. Particularly in backbends, arm balancing poses and inversions. When we hold our breath, our heart beat is quicker, adrenaline is released and we are not able to do that pose since the sympathetic nervous system is activated. However, if we do not hold breath and go on breathing as if we are sitting in a meditative position and if our heart beat is calmed down, the parasympathetic nervous system will be activated and we may have a chance to do that “challenging” pose. What we want to do in yoga is to always keep our breath calm and deep, slow down the brain waves, calm down the mind and thus activate the parasympathetic nervous system and be able to do the most challenging pose in a “calm and peaceful” way. Unfortunately, we cannot achieve this goal when we hold our breath.

We want to harmonize the body and breath in yoga flows. One breath for one “asana”. Exhale to “uttanasana” (standing forward bend) inhale to “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend)… Exhale to “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank) inhale to “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and exhale to “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog)…

We practied “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) and a few “asana”s in-between the sun salutation series throughout a class. Just by watching the breath. First we tried inhaling and exhaling in three counts. We did each “asana” when inhaling in three counts and another when exhaling in three counts. Then we prolonged the breath to five counts. Some students felt difficulties in prolonging the breath to five counts at first but as the “surya namaskara” series continued, the breath prolonged and body and soul become more harmonized. Instead of acting separately, the body and soul tried to act together. And in the end, each “asana” was done in five breath counts. Each “asana” without being quickly done… Slowly and deeply…

One pose in each breath. One pose throughout one breath. When the exhale ends, the final shape of that pose as if each pose is that day’s peak pose. To prolong the pose throughout one inhale or exhale. Yoga was the harmony of the body, mind and soul. If “asana”s were the physical and bodily part of yoga, the breath was the spiritual part of yoga. When we harmonized body and breath, the only thing we should do is to make the mind watch and follow the body and breath. But the priority was always the harmony of the body and breath.