“I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible.”
It’s a comment I’ve heard many times from people when they find out I am an avid yogi. But the truth is, you don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga. All you need to be able to do is breathe.
Initially, yoga was just breath and meditation. Movement was added later. Breathing is still the essential part of any yoga practice and it’s all you need to practice yoga. And if you’re reading this in a physical body, you’re obviously breathing.
For any practice to be beneficial, you must commit to being consistent and practice every day. It can be as little as five minutes. Or even two. You decide.
Just breathe in and out to bring yourself some peace.
“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Breathing in, I notice my in-breath has become deeper. Breathing out, I notice my out-breath has become slower…” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Sit in a chair, on the floor, or someplace comfortable. If you prefer the floor, sit on a pillow or a folded blanket. Sit closer to the edge so that your knees are lower than your hips. Adjust. You’re going to be here for a few minutes.
Straighten your back as much as possible. Envision a straight, strong spine.
Inhale and shrug your shoulders up to your ears, then exhale and relax them down. Broaden across your chest as if your heart is expanding and feel and see it surrounded by a warm golden light.
If you’re in a chair, sit with your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Rest your hands in your lap, on your thighs or keep them by your side.
Now smile a little half-smile. Even if you’re not in a great mood, it will trick you into feeling happier.
Think of the crown of your head reaching up, up, up to the sky. Feel your eyelids becoming heavy. Inhale and as you exhale, let them gently close. Now inhale and feel and see your belly filling-up with air, like a balloon. Keep your mouth closed and exhale through your nose. Do this three more times.
Listen to your breath going in and out. Really listen. It’s a beautiful sound; it’s the sound of your energy, your life force. As you continue to breathe, can you feel and hear the beating of your heart?
That’s step one.
If you’re comfortable, stay where you are, or move on to step two.
Step #2 on breathing in yoga
Again, inhale and fill your belly with breath and pause for a second. Now pull the breath up to your lungs and feel your ribs expand. Keep your mouth closed and exhale through your nose.
Again, breathe into your belly, fill it with air. Pause, feel your ribs expand. Now exhale through your nose.
Do this three more times.
If this feels like you’ve arrived, stay here. If you think you want to try one more thing, move to step three.
Remember to keep that little half-smile on your face.
Step #3 to three-part breathing
Begin with step number one. Breathe into belly, pause.
Second, sip it up into the lungs and feel the ribs expand. Now pause again and pull the breath up into your chest. See and feel the breath moving across your collar bones.
Exhale through the nose and envision it spreading out into your shoulders down your arms.
An Easy Technique to Relax or Energize
First, smile that little half-smile. Breath in slowly for a count of two. Now exhale, one, two, three. It’s just one extra count.
Longer exhales trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest part, and will cause your heart to beat slower. This is a good practice at the end of the day as you prepare to go to bed.
In the morning, reverse the process and take longer inhales and shorter exhales. It will stimulate your heart to beat faster. It’s also a good way to energize yourself during the day, better than a cup of coffee.
# # #
Congratulations! You’re doing yoga in its purest form.
You can do it for as long you want, but it won’t take long for your breath to have a positive effect. The only thing that matters is that you do it consistently.
Over time, you may want to add movement. I strongly recommend you invest in a class with a certified instructor to learn proper alignment and avoid injury.
Until then, just breathe.