Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reduce Stress with 1:2 Breath Ratio

When life is stressful, slowing down the breath, especially the exhalation, can help bring renewed calm and a more relaxed state of body and mind.

Here's how ...

Sit on a chair, meditation cushion or yoga bolster, in a posture of comfort and dignity. You can also lie down on your back for this pranayama experience; support your head and neck, and your knees, so that you are resting very comfortably on your mat. 

Take a few moments to settle in and settle down. Take some Wave Breaths: allow your abdomen, ribcage and collarbones to expand as you breathe in ... and let your collarbones, ribcage and abdomen recede as you breathe out. Take several of these Wave Breaths at an easy, leisurely pace that is natural for you.

Now, as you breathe in, notice the length of the inhalation - you might count "beats" in your head: "inhale - two - three." 

As you breathe out, slow down the exhalation up to twice the length of your inhalation - you might count "beats" as follows: "exhale - two - three - four - five - six."

Don't strain, and do not hold the breath; this pranayama is meant to be comfortable and easeful. You should feel comfortable at all times.

Repeat this for several rounds, for 1-2 minutes. Then, return to your natural breath and notice how you feel.

The 1:2 breath ratio is designed to - quite literally - slow us down. It moves us from the sympathetic (stress) nervous system into the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system ... and it is very soothing and calming.

Try it, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TIPS FOR TEACHERS: Where Do You Stand?

Do you always teach from the front of the yoga studio, with your students facing you? Of course, that's where you would want to be ... much of the time, unless you're moving around the room to offer gentle assists or whispered words of encouragement or guidance.

But there are some times when you could refine your teaching by positioning yourself at a different spot in the room, with better results.

The Problem: You are teaching a creative sequence that involves moving the class from, say, Warrior I, to Warrior II, to other poses sequenced into the flow. Your students will be facing the front of the room when you first start the sequence (Mountain, Warrior I, Sun Salutation); then they will face the side of the room for Warrior II and perhaps some other fun "open hip" poses (Stargazer, Side Angle, Half Moon) that you've choreographed into the sequence. To do the sequence "on the other side," the class will be transitioning to face the other side of the studio.

And where are you? At the front of the room, where most of your students can't see you for a large portion of the sequence. 

Your beautiful demo isn't going to be effective if no one can see you, or your students have to crane their necks to see what you are doing.

Is there a better way? Yes.

The Solution: When the class is facing the side wall of the studio, GO OVER THERE and demo the poses while facing the class. When the class faces the front of the room, MOVE THERE. And when you lead your class through the sequence on the other side, MOVE AGAIN, this time to the other side of the room, so that it is always easy for your students to find you, and for you to see them. 

There are three rationales for this:

- we want our students to be able to see us, so why not make that easier for them?

- when we stay glued to our mats at the front of the room, our students will turn their heads in order to see us; this has them twisting their necks uncomfortably, or moving in ways that take them out of proper alignment, and might strain necks, shoulders, low backs and knees.

- it is WAY easier to move one person (you, the instructor), rather than an entire class; this is simply more efficient.
Try it and let me know how it works for you!