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Diaphragmatic Breathing, “A handbook for Yogasana Teachers: The incorporation of Neuroscience, Physiology and Anatomy into the Practice” by Mel Robin
In diaphragmatic breathing the movement is largely that of the diaphragm moving down on the inhalation and up on exhalation. There is also specific involvement of the abdominal muscle wall, resulting in the lifting and expansion of the lower rib cage on inhalation, because the taut abdominal muscles confine the incompressible viscera as the diaphragm descends. It is the involvement of the muscles of the abdomen and the external intercostals (which flare the lower ribs on inhalation) that distinguishes the diaphragmatic breath from the abdominal breath.
The effect of the diaphragmatic breath is a stimulation of the sympathetic system (a general activation and warming of the body’s autonomic systems), and the mental effect is that of clarity and attentiveness. This is the appropriate breath for most yogasanas. (Chapter 15, pg 612)
The left lung is smaller than the right lung because the heart is left of center in the body. The liver is on the right side and is the largest, heaviest internal organ, with an average weight of 3.5 pounds. When you roll to your right side, the heart remains open and free of pressure. The heart also remains above the organs leaving less weight on the heart resulting in less pressure after Savasana. Interestingly, in some people the internal anatomy is reversed, with hearts on the right and/or livers on the left, but are otherwise perfectly healthy. In this case the student would benefit from rolling onto their left side.
When pregnant, it is best to roll onto the left side. Rolling to the left side improves circulation, giving nutrient-packed blood an easier route from the heart to the placenta nourishing the baby. Lying on the left side also relieves the pressure of the uterus from lying on top of the liver, which is essential in the processing of nutrients and detoxification of non-nutrients.
In India, it is considered auspicious to enter a holy space with your right foot. In many parts of the world we greet each other by extending our right hands. The right side represents the east and rolling towards the east, or the rising sun, is symbolic of asking for blessings of grace and bliss.
In traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, our body contains over 72.000 nadis, or energy channels. There are three “main” nadis in the body: the Sushumna in the center of the spine, the Ida nadi on the left side, and the Pingala nadi on the right side.
The Ida and the Pingala nadis are associated with specific attributes. The left side of the body, or the Ida nadi, is related to our femininity. The feminine side of the body has cooling, calming, Yin energy. The right side of the body, or the Pingala nadi, is related to our masculinity. The masculine side of the body has heating, energizing, Yang energy.
When you come out of Savasana and roll to your right side, your left nostril is on top. This will emphasize the flow of breath through the left nostril, and has a calming effect. Since we generally want to calm the body and the mind when we practice yoga, we end the class in this position. If you need some stimulation and extra energy at the end of your practice, it is advised to roll to your left side to stimulate breathing through your right nostril.
References: https://www.webmd.com/baby/positioning-while-sleeping, http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/top-10-what-are-heaviest-organs-human-body, http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/dissertations/shruddha1/abstract.aspx, https://www.melissawest.com/why-we-roll-to-the-right-side/, https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-we-have-the-right-side-bigger-than-the-left-or-opposite-Why
Looking for inspiration in your practice? Click the link for 1000+ Iyengar Yoga ideas
Student Question: I loved the rope sequence you taught in class. Is there a way I can practice it at home without a rope wall?
Yes! The video below provides detailed instructions on how to use your door as a rope wall for standing poses!
Student question: With my busy schedule, I only have twenty minutes to practice each day. Is there anything you can suggest?
I thought about this question while I was in India. During a Q&A session, Abhijata talked about how we have to touch the standing poses, in our practice, everyday. Standing poses are the foundation for all other asanas. However, it is important to create a well-rounded practice that incorporates different categories of asana (i.e. forward bending, back-bending, inversions, twists.)
To help you in your practice, I have attached Iyengar yoga sequences from the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States (IYNAUS) and a 20 minute yoga sequence created by Carolyn Belko of the Iyengar Yoga Center of North County, CA.
- 20 Minute Yoga Sequence, by Carolyn Belko
- Four Level-I Home Practice Sequences (touching upon major asana categories) IYNAUS
- Four Level-II Home practice sequences (moving more deeply into different asana categories) IYNAUS
Sequence for Janu Sirasana indicating one or two linking actions for each asana.
- Tadasana – Lift and spread the front of the chest, lift up through the side ribs. (vertical extention)
- Urdhva Hastasana – Roll the outer upper arms toward the inner arms. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk.
- Vrksasana – (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action). (arm torso action) Roll the outer upper arms toward the inner arms. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk. (vertical extention)
- Parighasana bent leg – (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action)
- Virabhadrasana II into Utthita Parsvakonasana (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action).
- Adho mukha svanasana – Roll the inner upper arms to the outer arms. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk.
- Parsvottanasana – concave – Draw the chest forward, extend through the sides of the body, lift and spread the front of the chest.
- Parsvottanasana – go down – keeping the actions of Parsvottanasana concave, keeping length in the sides of the body and front body as you move down.
- Padangusthasana – Pull up through the arms. Draw the body down keeping the length in the sides of the body.
- Baddha konasana – Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action). Roll the inner legs to the outer legs.
- Upavistha Konasana – Extend through the heels. Press the thighs firmly down, draw the knee caps up.
In Janu Sirsasana students tend to shorten the front body, round the back, and lift the shoulders up by the ears instead of drawing down and into the back. Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Parsvottanasana, Padangusthasana teach the student to lengthen the sides of the body evenly (vertical extention), lift and spread the front of the chest and draw the shoulders down and into the back. Vrksasana, Parighasana, Virabadrasana II, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Baddha konasana, Upavistha konasana teach the action of the legs.
This photo was posted on Facebook by Heather O’Hara. This is a photo of her grandmother before and after she started practicing yoga. The photos were taken less than one year apart. Her teacher is Rachel Jesien, a Certified Yoga Instructor specializing in Alignment, Backcare & Scoliosis in NYC.
I do not know Rachel, but based on the results shown in the photo she must be a wonderful teacher. However, it is important to note that these results could never have been achieved without the dedication and commitment of the student.
No matter how incredible the teacher, if the student doesn’t practice, the student doesn’t change.
Heather’s grandmother did not take a lesson from Rachel and go home to wait for her next lesson. She took what she learned and practiced. In Sanskrit the word for practice is Abhyasa. It translates to, ‘persistent, consistent effort, practiced over a long period of time’. It does not mean practice when we find time for it. It does not mean wait until you attend your next yoga class. It is a fiercely focused commitment necessary to create a change. That’s the kind of practice it took to make this change. A change clearly seen in the photo above. We can all learn from Heather’s grandmother.
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”