People tell me often in class how hard they find the breathing especially when it comes to linking breath with movement and that they seem to be inhaling when they’re meant to be exhaling, generally holding their breath or just feeling that their breaths are too short.
I used to experience just the same thing early on in my practice. When it came to following my teachers pace in class, it always seemed too slow and I would have to hold my breath between the inhales and exhales, take extra breaths or even rest in child’s pose as I felt out of breath. I would often feel tired or lacking in stamina and I see this now when I teach people who I know are physically really fit but seem to struggle with their fitness. This always comes down to their breathing technique as our breath provides the fuel for the muscles in our body and if we aren’t breathing efficiently the body won’t have enough fuel to feel strong during yoga.
In short, breathing well means getting enough oxygen to nourish your body. When we have uneven or short breaths, we’re not getting as much oxygen into our bodies as we could. It takes practice to improve your breathing technique but start by focusing my top 5 tips.
1) Always start with your breath. Whenever you unroll your yoga mat, sit or lie down, close your eyes and connect to your breath. Deepen your inhale and lengthen your exhale. As you begin to move keep this connection to your breath.
2) Focus on your exhale. When we exhale more fully, this naturally leads to a deeper inhalation, which means a richer more efficient breath.
3) Count your breath. Often in class we are so busy trying to follow what pose the teacher is instructing that we simply aren’t mindful of our breathing. Start counting your breath and try to make your inhale and exhale of equal length.
4) Practise the Ujjayi Breath. This is a great technique to focus on as it is a powerful breath which encourages you to use your full lung capacity. It is also an audible breath so it keeps you focused on your breathing, when you can hear that your breath is getting short you know you need to rest in child’s pose for a moment and let everything settle.
5) Practise! Getting in sync with your breath will radically change your yoga. So practise. I have two free videos to support you, Technique Lesson on Yoga Breathing and Instructions for the Ujjayi Breath.
Every year I make it a priority to get away, ideally on my own and retreat. It can be a long weekend in the UK (usually to the beach in Eastbourne) or if I’m lucky a far far away land! This time last year I spent two weeks on a lake in Thailand, with the closet mobile phone reception a 2 hour boat ride away. The venue’s slogon was ‘somewhere in the middle of nowhere’ and that really summed it up. I spent most of this precious retreat time, being quiet, still, slow and reflective; nourishing my body and mind with great food, lots of yoga and lots and lots of space. Being on a retreat is space to just be, no ‘TO DO LIST’, nothing to accomplish and no expectations. We spend so much of our life living up to labels which get stuck to us through our jobs, our family relationships and other people’s perceptions of us; going on a retreat is a way of removing these labels and spending time with our true self-free to just be. This can be liberating, this can be daunting but it is always precious. I’ve booked my retreat time for this year and am heading off on my own to Tobago over Easter adding some much needed sunshine to my retreat needs.
I feel so truly honoured to have been able to lead two weekend yoga retreats last year; to have been able to hold the space for people to experience the nourishing and healing effects of retreating, even if just for 48 hours. I’m running three weekend retreats this year at the beautiful Brooklands Barn in Arundel, the March retreat is almost fully booked with just a few spots left and I’m already taking bookings for the August retreat (8th – 10th). There is more information here. Join us, I would love to share the amazing experience of retreating with you!
Thinking about buying a new yoga mat? I get asked my opinion regularly on what type of yoga mat to buy and to be honest there is no one size fits all. There are so many different mats on the market, with different thickness and textures much of which comes down to personal preference as well as a huge price range from mats as cheap as £4 and some that cost well over £100 (but who really needs their yoga mat to come with Swarovski crystals??).
At present I’ve been using an Argos Pro Fitness Yoga Mat that came as part of their Pro Fitness Yoga and Pilates Set, which also includes a small fit ball, two weights and two stretch bands. A fairly cheap and cheerful set at £24.99 but you know what it does the job! The mat is super cute in baby blue with pretty little butterflies and foliage on it and to my surprise it was really pretty grippie. When you get a new yoga mat they usually always have to be broken in as they come with a slippery film on them which does go after a few uses but is really annoying the first few times you use the mat. This mat wasn’t slippery at all but it did have quite a smell of plastic which I’m sure this will soon fade.
Although a fit ball is not a standard prop that you would use in a yoga class, I’ve been it to help me develop the strength and feel the technique to press up into a yoga handstand which is all about core strength and lifting the hips up. This Pro Fit Ball is quite small which makes it even harder work and really makes me activate my core when I do my fit ball handstand preparation.
Fancy a new mat? Yoga mats are available here. I look forward to seeing you at a yoga class in Southampton with your new mat.