Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Deepen your experience by incorporating your breath.
I came to yoga as a broken and beaten athlete. For many years, I abused my body with the rigors of training and competition. It was always more miles, more strokes, more strides. In reality, it was anything but a mind-body connection.
While hiking this past March with my wife and daughters, I was enjoying a moment of reflection and gratitude on all that yoga has taught me. More specifically, pranayama. You see, it was ultimately the breath that tamed the unhealthy competitor within me. This competitor, who I now know as my ego, was abusing my body for years. No pain, no gain right?
My moment of gratitude came to me as I was watching myself and my family handle the changes in altitude of that early-spring hike (we are east coasters and were hiking in the elevated hills of Colorado). Because of my study of the breath, we are a family who only yoga breathes in cardiovascular exercise, which I’ll talk more about in a few minutes. What I soon noticed was that no matter how difficult the incline, none of us were willing to comprise our relationship with our breath. It didn’t matter if we had to slow our pace at times, it only mattered that we maintained a relationship of respect with our body and breath.
I was trained in the Kripalu style of yoga, which has a strong foundation in pranayama. While in my yoga teacher training, I was amazed at the level of attention towards linking breath with movement. The athlete in me wondered why we didn’t have this same philosophy in sports training. I had always been taught to inhale through my nose, exhale through my mouth. But, yoga movements focused on inhaling and exhaling through my nose.
I started to incorporate various yoga breathing techniques into sequenced cardiovascular and strength training workouts. The affects were beyond phenomenal. I could increase speed or endurance, maintain postural integrity, reduce, and at times eliminate, lactic acid build-up, enhance recovery times, and more importantly, create unity between my body and mind in ways I had only experienced in yoga.