A short reflection I wrote entitled “Breath for a Healthy Holiday Season” was featured in the Yogavidala December newsletter along with information about the new “Starting Yoga from Scratch” class that I will be teaching there beginning Thursday, January 19th.

Here is the content of “Breath for a Healthy Holiday Season”:

The holidays are a time of year where it is easy to become overwhelmed.  The emotions are easily pulled this way and that as we balance the emotional highs of time off of work and late night get togethers with friends with the emotional lows that develop from travel, time changes, eating irregularly and inconsistently, and disrupting our routines.  Given that we are not going to give up on a few late nights or having a cocktail or a few extra appetizers here and there, what can we do to help balance out our emotional landscape during this busy and bumpy season?Pranayama is the fourth limb of ashtanga yoga (after yama, niyama and asana).  It comes from the Sanskrit root words “prana” referring to the ultimate life force or energy that moves in the world and in our bodies (the breath is the most obvious part of prana for many of us) and “ayama” meaning extension, expansion, restraint or control.  The yoga texts say that stilling the breath also stills the mind.  If yoga is defined as citta vrtti nirodaha, or stilling the fluctuations of the mind, then pranayama is the heart of yoga.  Pranayama is a vast subject that requires understanding of asana, patience and a lot of practice to master, but it has a very simple beginning – lying in Savasana (Corpse Pose) and observing the normal breath.So, during the rush and tumble of your holiday season, make time for a short daily practice of beginning pranayama, ideally when you first wake up in the morning, before breakfast.  Set a timer for ten minutes.  Lie in Savasana making sure your body is completely aligned.  Relaxing your bones and muscles, especially those around your face, bring your attention to the normal rhythm of your own breath.  Observe your breathing.  Where in your body do you feel your breath most – in your abdominals, ribs, chest, throat?  Notice the texture of your normal breath – does it feel smooth or coarse?  Are there particular places in your normal breathing where you hold or tighten your breath?  Does your breath feel even left and right, front and back, inhalation and exhalation?  Can you allow your body to breathe for you or are you consciously controlling your breathing?  Are you able to let go of your physical body to allow your breath more space?

As you continue this simple practice over time you may begin to observe your breath in your daily life, noticing when you are holding your breath, that sitting or standing in different positions affects your breathing, and you may even begin to see that your breath affects your mental state.  You may even find yourself drawn to your breath, allowing it to expand and lengthen and bring you deeper inward and away from the flurry of the outside world.  Health is all about maintaining balance.  If we are to have energy for all of the varied outside endeavors and commitments of our lives, especially during the holiday season, we need to develop ways to find a place of stillness within.  My practice of pranayama has given me that gift.  I hope it will do the same for some of you.  Happy holidays!

And the information about my new class that begins in January:

Thursday January 19,
4pm – 5:15pm join Becca Gordon for “Starting Yoga from Scratch”.  A class for those who are brand new to yoga or experienced practitioners who want to go back to the basic foundations of the practice. Come just as you are, dressed comfortably for movement. No matter where you are starting from, you will be surprised how good yoga can make you feel!

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2 Responses to “Yogavidala”

  1. Kate Zachary December 6, 2011 3:51 pm #

    Great post! I am definitely going to add this into the wake up routine. Thanks for sharing!

    • Becca December 6, 2011 4:14 pm #

      Yay! Please let me know how it feels for you or if you have any questions as you practice.

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