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Did you know your tongue is directly connected to your feet? I didn’t, either.

This past Saturday I took an amazing class at Little Yoga House. The Anatomy of Breathing. It was taught by Leslie Kaminoff of The Breathing Project. Leslie, who co-authored Yoga Anatomy, was on Long Island for a Long Island Yoga Association program, but this class provided an even better opportunity. Seven of us and Leslie in a room learning about how we breathe and how our anatomy affects breathing. With a little yoga thrown in.

Breathing originates in the diaphragm. I always pictured the diaphragm as a flat muscle running below my ribcage. And I took anatomy and physiology in college! As we found out in the class, it’s actually a weather balloon-looking muscle that drapes over all the organs of the stomach cavity, attaching underneath. We watched a video that showed us how we breathe, which was pretty cool. But the even cooler part came when we saw footage that explained how everything in there fits together. The diaphragm connects — as one uninterrupted muscle — all the way up to the tongue and down to the feet. I was amazed. The doctors in the film showed us, via a cadaver, that they could remove the diaphragm, and by doing so, take with it the throat, tongue, leg muscles, and foot muscles. All connected. All together.

One of the things we talked about is how — because it’s all connected — poor posture or something as simple as achy feet can affect the way we breathe. If your feet hurt, the muscles tighten. When that muscle tightens, it’s almost a given that it’s going to affect the other muscles it is a part of. And I’m sure you’ve figure out on your own: When breathing is compromised, everything else suffers. Mood, thought processes, emotions, concentration. It was so amazing to make that leap. To understand why, if you have a sore neck, it’s so difficult to do anything else. During the lecture we took a few opportunities to get into yoga poses and feel how, with just a little change of positioning, breathing was more difficult or easy.

So how does this fit into Favorite Things Friday? We all breathe. It should be among everyone’s favorite things, right? But so many of us walk around inhibiting free breath. I thought I’d include a few sites — yes, yoga sites — that can help anyone breathe a little easier, and stand a little taller. And for those who say they are not yoga people? Remember when you were a child? You’d get into all sorts of wacky positions? So many of those positions are mimicked in yoga. We, at our most basic, crave yoga. And you don’t have to be in tip-top shape or even willing to go to a class to get involved. You can do simple yoga sitting at your desk, standing in your kitchen, lying in your bed. It’s worth it. Breath is life. Yoga helps us breath easier. Algebraically, yoga equals life. (And I promise I will go back next week to more silly sites that make us laugh and smile.)

  • Santosha. There is a non-profit yoga studio by my house called Yoga Anand Ashram. It has a store (Santosha) on its first floor, the studio up above. I took many of the yoga theory workshops I needed as a yoga teacher right there. Its Web site has a listing of asanas — poses — that are beautifully explained, and given a level-of-difficulty number. Perfect for someone just starting out.
  • Yoga Cards. Someone gave me a box of Yoga Cards — a PR person, I think — a long time ago. The accompanying Web site is even nicer than the cards because it’s got free video you can watch to help learn some of the more basic postures and flows.
  • Yoga Learning Center. I like this site, which is a video subscription site, because in addition to the yoga videos you can download for $69.95 per year, it provides free written step-by-step instructions for those who aren’t willing to pay for the video portion. And since it’s categorized by body orientation — seated, standing, inverted — you can go in and get started more quickly.
  • MyYogaOnline.com. You’re not going to get free yoga video here, but this site is absolutely chock-full of yoga instruction. I really like that there’s a category dedicated to workplace yoga, and it actually touches on some of the other limbs of yoga. (Patanjali identified eight in all — asana or posture is the one we’ve been talking about today.)
  • Yoga Alliance. One of the best ways to learn yoga is from a yogi or yogini who loves to teach it. Someone who goes through the 200- or 500-hour training to become a certified instructor must learn anatomy and physiology, pranayamas, yoga philosophy, and teaching methodology. They can help a beginner get started, and keep an experienced yogi from getting hurt. They inspire. They love. When you find a fabulous yoga teacher, you will know what I mean. So once you try a few of the sites I mentioned above, why not go out and take a class? You can find one on the Yoga Alliance’s site. You’ll breathe easier. I promise.

Do you take yoga? What’s your favorite posture? How does it make you feel? If you’ve never tried it (or tried it and hated it), what’s holding you back from trying it again?

2 Responses to “Favorite Things Friday: Take a Deep Breath”

  1. Sarah says:

    I went to a yoga class last night for the first time ever. I was nervous, I’ll be honest, but I threw out my inhibitions (and thoughts of being fat). I was impressed first off with my teacher (a girl from church who was certified). She made the whole experience work for me. I was so glad that we warmed up the way we did and then advanced to some more challenging moves. I was filling the pull and was working on a little sweat, but I felt so alive and so relaxed! My favorite part was the ending where we relaxed for 10 minutes with the lights off and eyes closed, just me time. She encouraged us to think spiritual thoughts and, if we wanted, pray. It was great and I will be going back.

  2. Joanne Mason says:

    I’ve often considered yoga. Friends have told me how much better they feel after a session and how they feel more centered and grounded. But one thing that has held me back is a herniated disk and arthritis, which flare up pretty often. So I’m concerned that some postures would aggravate my neck, shoulder, and back. I know they’re not supposed to – but I’ve been too chicken to find out!

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