Breath and Movement

I finally kicked off my YTT (YAY!), BUT, I went back home on the first weekend not feeling the usual post yoga high. After taking a shower, I felt a subtle headache so I gulped tons of water, took meds and lied down the rest of the day. I only felt better the next morning but the nausea persisted throughout the week which has never happened to me.

I have been practicing yoga for a few years on and off, a lot of off, but have nevertheless survive a well mix of beginner to intensive classes so I do not think the headache was because the first weekend of YTT was too intensive (I surely am not speaking for the next few weekends).

What the hell happened? Backtracking a bit, I had runny nose the week before YTT started, and still had that last bit of blocked nostrils on my first two classes. I had to gulp for air through my mouth at times especially in poses where my head had to hang upside down. Needless to say, I completed all the asanas in two hours. Admittedly though, i didn’t really breath with my poses which I felt was the cause of my headache.

When I first started yoga, I had to pay so much attention just to breathe through my nose. Perhaps due to my history of asthma, I used to breathe primarily through my mouth. I am grateful that I have come a long way and can now subconsciously breathe through my nose on and off the mat. Nevertheless, this recent headache situation is a good reminder for me on the importance of breathing in yoga poses.

As in the comforting words “if you can breathe, you can do yoga”, breathing is the single requirement to practice yoga. Reminders to breathe will not be missed out in tens of instructions being thrown in a single yoga class. Despite all that, breathing usually gets restricted or simply forgotten once discomfort in poses starts and our minds starts to wander elsewhere like when it focuses on body pain.

This is of course a normal reaction as the breath and mind movements reflect each other. The breath can relax the mind and the mind can distract the breath. Thus, it is only with deep concentration and disciplined practice that one gets to breathe through the poses in ease. So as part of my efforts to reach that state, I starting to lay out my understanding on when to do inhalation and exhalation in my practice.

What happens to your body during inhalation? Chest rises, rib cage and belly expands, and our body becomes taller. Inhalation relates to expansion, opening, extending taller, lengthening, and rising. Some movements in yoga reminds me of this are coming up to warrior 1, lengthening spine before spinal twist and expanding chest in camel.

What happens to your body during exhalation? Chest falls, rib cage collapses in, and upper body drops. Exhalation relates to contraction, the use of force, twisting, folds, and inward movements. Some movements in yoga reminds me of this are exerting force in chaturanga, twisting deeper, and folding into forward fold.

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