Integrated Alignment and Breath

Have you ever caught yourself asking one of these questions during or after your yoga class?

-What am I doing with my body?

-How can I make this posture more accessible to me?

-Am I breathing correctly? Am I breathing at all?

-Why do I feel so angry/sad/calm/agitated in this posture?

-Why am I feeling so calm and peaceful after this practice?

Most of us start our yoga journey by going to a class and trying our best to copy the movements of the teacher/other students. Hardly ever we go through the basics and get an explanation of how this practice work with our bodies, minds and souls. These questions can come after your first class of after weeks or even years of practice. This workshop is for everyone who still has those questions unanswered and seeks to understand what is the purpose of yoga practice, not only the most obvious physical benefits, but also how it can lead us to a more productive, happy and peaceful life. It is also aimed at giving tools for every practitioner to be able to develop and progress in their practice more independently, with more presence and awareness.

This 4-hour workshop will be divided in three parts:

-We first look at basic physical alignment principles, to make sure we are performing asana in a safe, correct manner, in order to reap the benefits of moving the body in a particular way. We then apply these principles working in small groups, by conducting a brief postural assessment and taking notes of the misalignments/movement patterns found.

-We then spend some time talking about pranayama and how we can incorporate simple but effective breathing practices to support not only our asana practice but our general well being. We also discuss the connection between body-breath-mind and get some practical advice on how to make these three work together.

-Finally, I will lead you into an one-hour holistic yoga practice, so you can integrate and embody the new concepts learnt and receive corrections/assistance as you practice. If there is time in the end, we can have a short Q&A/feedback session.

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one one the key texts of Yoga philosophy, in order for our practice to be complete and takes us to the ultimate goal, we need to practice the Eight Limbs of yoga. The first two, Yamas and Niyamas, are guidelines on how to interact with others and with ourselves in a balanced, compassionate and peaceful manner. The last three limbs, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, are internal advanced practices and they usually only become available to us after long and dedicated practice. The three other limbs left, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara, are the more external, physical aspects that are accessible to most of us, and where we usually start when we begin our yoga journey.

ASANA is posture. It is the most well-known and practiced limb, quite often equated to yoga. It is the most physical, visible practice and the one we are usually the most familiar with.

PRANAYAMA means control of prana, or breath. Here we begin to work on more subtle forces, but still with physical, tangible and accessible exercises that guide us through and connects us to the beauty and power of our own breath.

PRATYAHARA means internalisation of the senses. The minds tend to be very busy all the time because, left to its own devices, it will always be following our senses outwards. What we see, hear, smell, touch and taste is constantly giving our minds reasons to be over stimulated and consequently, keeping us in a constant state of alert, not being able to relax and just be. Certain simple techniques that can be applied during asana practice can guide the mind inwards so it will stop following the senses and therefore giving us, even if just momentarily at the beginning, a sense of rest and inner peace. It is when the mind is in this space that healing and breakthroughs quite often occurs. Ultimately, by cultivating this, we can reach the higher limbs of yoga.

This workshop will focus mainly on these three limbs, as in my experience, once these are understood and practiced, the more subtle aspects of yoga begin to emerge naturally. Then it is up to each practitioner to decide how to incorporate these changes into their lives. There are so many paths to be explored towards a happy, peaceful and free existence.