By far the most important thing we do in yoga class is the breathing. “Breathing defines our experience of Yoga”, says phenomenal yoga teacher Andy Gill. See the attachment for his observations on how the breath reveals the yogi’s state of mind, not the postures.
This email is inspired by a thirty-something guy on the train that I couldn’t help watching. His breathing was noticeably fast. He was a bit overweight and slumping in his seat. (Actually, so was everyone else!) He had no abdominal breathing, his chest was heaving and collar bones lifting with his shallow breaths. Shoulder/clavicle breathing is a sign that primary breathing muscles are in trouble. Raising the shoulders or arms to help breathe happens when the diaphragm has no room to move due to belly fat or poor posture and the elasticity of the lungs and chest wall is lost. Lifting the shoulders and collar bones is a compensation.
Poor lung function is the absolute opposite of what yoga is about. There is also a Hindu belief that is worth carrying around with us: that we are born with a predetermined amount of breaths and you can lengthen your life with breath control. It’s a great belief, telling us that our job in life is to make good use of our allotted breaths; make them long and lasting and not to spend time in stressful, short-breath situations. Above all, it tells us that the breath is in charge which is obvious but too easily forgotten.
Summer Solstice, the peak of the year, has come and gone. It always comes too soon! If you haven’t already arranged a holiday or retreat, consider coming to Kythera with me for some Greek sun and Kythera warmth. Kytheran people have an easy and genuine friendliness towards visitors that you will struggle to find elsewhere in the world. I’m teaching the first week’s retreat and Lisa Maarit Lischak is joining me for the second week. Have a look at the details of both retreats here.
Yesterday’s International Yoga Day started with new yogis in a corporate class and, to make the day complete, I had the privilege of introducing a new yogi to Ashtanga in my little Home Studio. It couldn’t be better. There are plenty of places left next week. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here.
This Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 to 4:30, I will be doing a weekend at Indaba with Gregor Maehle. The workshops are named ‘Integrating the eight limbs into a cohesive whole’ - how asana prepares you for pranayama, which prepares you for meditation. Gregor Maehle has studied Iyengar and Ashtanga in India, lived as a recluse, and studied anatomy, Sanskrit, yogic scripture, and philosophy. Come with me!
Andy Gill is responding to popular demand and holding another Ashtanga Yoga and Ayurveda workshop with Justin Robertshaw tomorrow. The last time was Easter 2017 and it was fascinating and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can e-mail Andy to book at email@example.com.
Yoga in the news
Al Jazeera has a lovely picture story, ‘Thousands celebrate International Day of Yoga’, showing the massive, humungous crowds in India celebrating International Yoga Day.
The Telegraph has; ‘Bend it like Ryan Giggs: how athletes fell in love with yoga’. It says that Giggs added “another 10 years” onto his career with yoga practice. “Yoga was first about injury prevention, but later it became about recovery,” he said. “The day after a match, the adrenalin would still be in my body. But the following day, when I got out of bed, everything would hurt, so I would do yoga then.””
The Independent has the best article of all: ‘How a yoga holiday in Kent could help refugees’. Let’s go!