A conscious and purposeful life through yoga

A conscious and purposeful life through yoga

by Amanda Baker
Stripes Japan

Many people practice yoga, especially now more than ever from the comfort of their own home. It is very accessible to roll out a yoga mat, follow tutorials and mirror any sort of video you can get your hands on. Your body reaps the benefits of yoga if you hold the stretches long enough. But there are more benefits to yoga than just the superficial physical aspect. It is worth exploring how yoga can enrich the way you treat yourself, your body and other people. Here are some ways you can incorporate intentionality into your stretching, so you feel more confident and purposeful not just in your practice, but in your life as well.

Yoga literally means “yoke,” or to unite and connect. We can connect with our bodies and feel rejuvenated through the physical form of yoga. This physical form is called “Asana,” or posture. Your posture should not make you feel like you can’t breathe. You should feel comfortable and steady while in whatever pose you are holding. The misconception to bend your body into a pretzel prevents you from recognizing and honoring your limitations. The best rule of thumb is: if you cannot inhale and exhale for at least 4 counts in a position, come out of it and modify until you can execute while breathing completely. Throughout time, you will begin to listen to your body, know its cues and become more connected with yourself.    

Breathing techniques
Oxygen provides our bodies with the energy we need to not only stay alive, but the power to control our own mind. When we control our mind, amazing things happen. We slow down our decision-making process and step back from something that may be hindering or upsetting us. We can accomplish so much when we breathe intentionally. One way to practice breathing is through Pranayama. Prana means “energy” and Yama means “restraint,” or we can better understand Pranayama as breath control. One method of Pranayama is called Ujjayi (pronounced OOJ-EYE-EE), which helps to improve blood circulation and minimizes diseases of the lungs, chest and throat. To practice your Ujjayi breath, sit in a comfortable position and inhale deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for as long as you can, then exhale slowly while contracting the air passage. After some practice, your breath will sound like whistling or ocean waves. I enjoy this breathing throughout my practice when I come to a deep pose, such as a hip opener.  

Sense withdrawal and focused concentration
Withdrawing from our senses sounds counterintuitive to what we want to achieve in yoga, but in order to tune out everything around us, we must first draw inward. If you have ever attempted meditation, you may be thinking this is what you were doing. You were sitting or lying in a comfortable position, you were breathing deeply and effortlessly, and you were very aware of your body. This phase in yoga allows you to become so absorbed in the moment, that your surroundings do not bother or disrupt you. When you practice sense withdrawal, or what is called Pratyahara, you will become less distracted with things around you in your everyday life. When you can maintain this level of focused concentration, or what is called Dharana, you are much closer to achieving true meditation and bliss.

In my experience as a certified yoga instructor and practitioner, my studies are guided by the philosophies of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a structure for every one of all backgrounds, levels and beliefs to follow. The Sutras offer an eight-step journey in Ashtanga called the Eight Limbs of Yoga which includes Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara and Dharana. How much you want to use from the Sutras is up to you in order to live a conscious and purposeful life through yoga.


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