Recently we were lucky enough to have two days of inspirational yoga with Rajiv and Swati Chanchani. With many years of teaching Iyengar yoga in India, the Chachani’s are wonderfully adept at melding teaching of Asana with awareness of breathing and a wonderful range of images draw from their wide experience all combined to create insightful Yoga classes.
The Asana work we did with them involved posses that were held for longer periods of time so that we could become aware of our breathing in each pose and the effect it has on the mind and body. The Chanchani’s told us to think of the Asana as creating different types of landscape through which our breath flowed like water in ways that depended on the shapes the Asana created in our bodies.
They taught us poses with the meticulous precision associated with the Iyengar Yoga helping us to add a deeper layer and built our ability to observe in fine detail the flow of movement of our breathing.
They also talked about what it means to deepen your yoga practice.
Iyengar Yoga starts with the Asana which are practiced in increasing detail in a way that helps develop our focus, concentration and awareness. In a natural way this leads to the development of breath awareness in poses. Moving deeper this leads to Pranayama, yogic breathing, as a natural continuation of the practice.
The two days of teaching with Rajiv and Swati left us with feeling that, whatever our starting point, whether starting to understand Asana or moving inward to incorporate an awareness of breathing or starting to practice Pranayama - we should always aim to deepen our yoga practice.
Breathing - our essence
We are all so busy, rushing around, we don’t allow ourselves time to be still. Pranayama can be thought of as a form of meditation and it give us the opportunity to bring stillness to our body and mind.
The benefits of a regular practice of meditation have been shown to include:
- Improvements in our emotional well being with reductions in feelings of anxiety, depression and stress
- Health improvements such as reduced blood pressure and increased energy levels
- Mental improvements such a improved ability to focus and improved memory
The Chanchani’s told the story of a deer they had seen in the forest near to where they live. The deer had been attacked by tigers and what remained was it’s head - with eyes wide open, untouched and beautiful. They said that, despite its beauty, with no breath its essence had gone. This was a strong image to help us understand that our breath, which we usually pay so little attention to, is entwined with our essence and our life force.
Written by Anstey Bligh and Marion Sinclair