What is Viniyoga?
Week Three – Breath & Adaptation
“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.”
When I first started teaching Viniyoga, I was describing the importance of working with the breath to my 90-year-old neighbor. Her comment was, “Why do I need a class to teach me how to breathe? I’ve been doing that all my life!” I’ve learned not to argue with seniors but the truth is that very few of us have the intimate relationship with our breath that will give us access to a better control of our lives.
Perhaps one of the most distinctive characteristics of Viniyoga is the use of the breath as a medium for movement. It seems like such a simple concept because, of course, you are breathing all the time. But learning to read the subtle nuances of your breath and then knowing how to manipulate it opens up a whole new window on yourself.
In Viniyoga, we use the breath to initiate movement. This practice will link your attention to your spine and thus help you to better move your spine. We can then use specific breath patterns to further enhance the effect of the practice.
Once you learn how to control your breath, you can use it to shape your daily condition by adding a breath pattern to your asana practice or to specifically prepare yourself for a pranayama practice.
Try this simple exercise: at various points during the day, notice your breathing pattern. For example, notice your breathing in the morning when you wake, when you are getting ready to go to work, when you are sitting in traffic, when you are watching or listening to the news, and/or when you get into bed at night. You can count your inhale and exhale for a few breaths to take it one step further. What do you notice?
By mastering your breath, you can master your mind. It is amazing how quickly one follows the other.
Next week, we will talk about the last distinction of Viniyoga: the art and science of sequencing. Stay tuned!