April’s Focus: Pranayama
As you have probably noticed, we start every yoga class with a few minutes of seated breathing. We also end our practice by focusing on our breath. The goal of these exercises is to make us focus on our breath, throughout our practice, and eventually throughout our lives. Focusing on breathing is what makes yoga different from other exercises, and so much more transformative (変形させる力のある). Our breath can calm us, give us energy, and connect us with our deepest self.
Pranayama means rhythmic control (ayama) of the breath (yama). Through pranayama exercises, we can learn how our breath works, and how we can control it. Our breath is a mirror of our emotions, or mental state. When we get scared or nervous, or excited, we tend to breathe faster. Through the practice of breath control, we can become aware of these changes in our breathing. Then, we can control, in many cases slow down and deepen, our breathing. When our breathing is slow and deep, we feel calm and comfortable. In this way, breath control can help us control our feelings.
In our last class, we practiced Ujjayi, the victorious breath. You can imagine that a very strong warrior breathes like this. A few students commented how it was difficult, and seemed like they didn’t understand how to make the sound. This is VERY natural, as breathing exercises are EVEN MORE difficult than moving poses. But with a little practice, you will become more sensitive to your breath and be able to do them. So let’s keep practicing and becoming more aware.
April’s Spotlight Pose: The Locust (Salabhasana)
The Locust is a backbending (そる) pose. That means, it helps make our backs more flexible. This pose focuses on the lower back and legs, so it also strengthens the legs and buttocks muscles. There are many variations of this pose, which we will try in each class. We will also be doing other exercises to strengthen and tone the legs and buttocks. These poses require strength and effort, so expect to get sore muscles (筋肉痛) the next day! You can also expect to develop stronger legs and a firmer buttocks. This is appealing to many of us women who suffer from “droopy butt” (垂れているお尻).
Only raise one leg at a time. Pay attention to the muscles in your buttocks and hamstrings.