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How to get the most out of your practice | Sarah Studebaker, Yoga Instructor & Health Coach

How to get the most out of your practice

Sarah-3831We all practice yoga for various reasons. For me, one of the main reasons is simply because stretching and moving makes me feel good. It’s easy for me to fall into my routine of moving through a few sequences that feel good on that day, then just hopping up and getting on with my life. It’s unfortunately easy for me to breeze over the breathing and relaxation parts and instead, just make sure I get in enough physical poses to call it a practice. Does this ever happen to you? When life gets busy, I sometimes need to remind myself that another reason I practice yoga is because of the stress relief that comes with relaxing and breathing deeply. How ironic that the times in my life with I’m stretched thin across the day are the times when my practice minimizes the focus on breathing?!

My mom recently gave me an article called The Breathing Cure that put all of this in perspective for me and rearranged my reasons for why I practice.  Did you know that becoming calmer not only makes you feel better, but it also “quells stress-induced inflammation, which, when unchecked, increases your vulnerability to cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.”  Chronic stress (aka- what rushing and jumping through your yoga practice does not help to prevent) can actually change your DNA in a way that makes you more susceptible to diseases.  On the other hand, those of us who practice yoga as a calming, de-stressing technique (by slowing down and having your breath be a part of your practice) are changing our DNA for the better.  The article states that “when you activate the relaxation response- by practicing active breathing or another mind-body discipline- you interrupt the stress cycle and bolster the health of your genes.  In a 2013 Norwegian study, participants who practiced three different relaxation modalities (yogic breathing, yoga postures, and mediation) experienced a threefold increase in the activity of genes in their immune cells compared with study subjects who relaxed by taking a nature walk.”  Isn’t that incredible?!

What has worked for me to ensure that breathing is always a part of my practice is this- match it with your movement.  When your breath is linked with your movement, you can’t forget about it.  Here are a few different ways to always incorporate your breath into your practice-

  • One movement per breath, also referred to as a moving mediation.  Inhale in one pose and exhale into another.  Yes, this does make you move quickly so you need to have an established sequence that you can move through.  Any easy one to remember and repeat is a basic sun salutation.  Not familiar with it, check out this post.
  • Use your exhales to go deeper.  In any pose you can use your breath to go further into the pose.  Inhale where you’re at and exhale to release further (whether it’s a twist, forward fold, etc).  Take 3-5 deep breaths like this, then move into your next pose and start again.  Remind yourself that you’re not really in the pose unless you’re ‘breathing into it.’

 

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