The mindful breath awareness technique can be used to bring attention to the breath during movement while practicing yoga. We commonly see this in transitions and vinyasa. When practiced without movement, this meditation is a good way to make it through an intense focusing practice. The literal translation of pranayama is “control of the energy that resides in the life force.” Through the evolution of pranayama, there are now many techniques for achieving control over one’s breath. As a result, some practitioners feel that combining mindfulness, breath awareness, and meditation in an outdoor setting is unmatched.
Using Timeless Techniques
Today, we are borrowing from the teachings of ancient yogis when people practiced pranayama to connect with the mind. In the past, this type of practice was not available to the public. During that era, priests practiced yoga as holistic exercise that was created for self-maintenance and to improve spiritual health. Ultimately, these priests became more mindful and experienced feelings of relaxation. Excuse my simplistic description, but when you throughly read “The Yoga Sutra,” by Patanjali, you begin to understand the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
With the breath as the anchor and one’s entire body as an instrument, mindful breath awareness can help bring the mind back to where it is supposed to be. People who practice outdoor activities like surfing, soccer, or walking will encounter times when they forget to practice any kind of breath awareness. Yoga provides techniques that can calm a person amidst busy lives in metropolitan areas. Yet, it is difficult to focus on the breath during daily activities.
Calming The Mind
Mindful breath awareness is the most commonly practiced form of meditation practice. It is essential to master breath awareness so that practitioners can tap into their breathing patterns without becoming anxious. This meditative technique often works to calm the mind and brings mindfulness to activities throughout a person’s day. In order for this practice to be effective, it should take at least 10-20 minutes with brief pauses as needed.
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By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.
How can your students learn to apply mindful breath awareness to life? The warm, balmy months of summer easily lend themselves to teaching Yoga classes in an outdoor environment. Traditionally, Yoga postures and breathing exercises were practiced outside, or at least within the natural confines of a cave, grove of trees, or on the banks of a river. Most of the traditional sadhus of India practiced Yoga in tandem with either the dawn or the dusk hours. The reason for this was practicing Yoga in alignment with the rhythms of dawn and dusk. Maintaining these hours helped to facilitate a deep connection to the natural world.
Yoga for the Community
As a certified Yoga instructor, you will find that you are able to offer classes in a wide range of environments. Classes take place everywhere, including outdoor venues. Additionally, you begin to develop your professional career as a Yoga teacher, and you find many different opportunities. You are grateful to offer the benefits of this ancient practice to people in your community. For example, you may find that a local domestic abuse facility or a teenage runaway shelter can use your help. Furthermore, the management would be absolutely thrilled to have you come offer classes to their residents. You may also find a number of local community organizations, that need your services. Other organizations such as churches, local parks, or rehabilitation centers, would love to have you come teach some Yoga classes.
Mindful Flow of Breath
When you are able to teach Yoga classes in an outdoor environment, you will find that it is much easier for your students to focus on their breath, while they practice the postures. Although it is quite enjoyable to practice in a beautiful Yoga studio, while listening to a favorite playlist, you will find that both you and your students will be more able to focus on the thoughts that arise during the course of their practice, and the flow of their breath in connection to the movement of the postures, when they practice in a quiet, outdoor environment.
In the Ashtanga Yoga system, maintaining a one-pointed focus on the breath is one of the most central aspects of the practice. Additionally, practicing Yoga outside in nature is also emphasized. In flowing styles, such as Power and Ashtanga Yoga, the postures themselves are linked together in a dance-like fashion with the breath. Usually, these styles of Yoga are also practiced with a particular pranayama technique, called “Ujjayi Pranayama.” Ocean Sounding Breath, or Ujjayi Pranayama, helps to facilitate the removal of toxins and also increases the flow of prana, or life force energy, throughout the entire body.
Grounded in the Present
Ocean Sounding Breath also helps to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which leaves a Yoga practitioner with a feeling of buoyant lightness. In order to support a mindful awareness of your students’ breathing patterns, you may want to recommend that they sit in Easy Seat at the beginning of a class for a few minutes and become aware of their breath. By dedicating three to five minutes at the beginning of a class to allow your students to focus solely on their inhalation and exhalation, your students will become grounded in the present moment, as they become acutely aware of the pattern of their own breathing.
Ocean Sounding Pranayama Technique
After 2 to 3 minutes of this mindful breathing exercise, you may want to suggest that your students begin to practice a specific pranayama technique, such as Ocean Sounding Breath. Giving your students a few minutes to firmly establish a pranayama technique, before moving through the physical postures, will help to foster an awareness of their breath and generate an awareness of the connection between their internal and external movements. As your Yoga students become grounded in their pranayama practice, you may also want to suggest that they take a moment to look around them and become aware of the natural beauty surrounding them.
Helping your Yoga students to cultivate mindful breath awareness while taking in the beauty of the outdoor environment, in which they are practicing, will help to foster a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. By weaving together the practice of gratitude, with energizing breathing techniques, asanas, and a period of contemplative meditation into your classes, you will nourish your students’ connection to their own heart, as well as to the world around them. This connection will support your students in their quest for optimal physical health and will also generate a sense of gratitude for the natural world, which will promote a desire for your students to give back to their own community and to the world around them.
About the Author
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique.
© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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