07 Feb '14

Getting Out of Your Head

By Kimberly Fowler

So when you think of yoga poses for the head, what comes to “mind” (pardon the pun)? Probably headstand, right? Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to stand on your head. Well, at least not yet! Headstand is an advanced pose and shouldn’t be done until you have been practicing yoga for a while.  Going upside down can be a little intimidating at first, so you want to be a little more comfortable with your practice before you try it. We are going to first focus on the mind-body connection which includes what is called “breath work”. Breath work is a great place to start because it is one of the main components of yoga that differentiates it from other forms of exercise or stretching. Breath work is a generic term for breathing exercises where the breathing is done in conscious and systematic way, with specific purpose in mind. It helps you relax and de-stress. Some types of yoga, like Kundalini, are actually more about breath work than about doing the physical poses.  When you start doing yoga it’s hard to remember to breath, or you might find yourself confused when to inhale and when to exhale, especially if you are practicing at home. If you take a class the instructor normally tells you when and how to breath.

Now for those of you who think “I already do some stretching. Why do I need to do yoga?” Well yoga is more than stretching mainly because of its mind-body aspect. The mind-body connection makes yoga a more appealing workout for me, and I hope for you too, because we’re getting 2 for 1. When we normally think of “fitness”, most of the time, we just think of our bodies. In yoga, as with life, the mind and the body are connected and as any athlete knows the mind can actually help your physical performance. I have always believed in the power of the mind over the body, and have had a few incidents where it actually saved my life.

So how does yoga connect the mind and the body? Well one of the main ways yoga affects the body and in particular the head, is through the use of breath work. In a yoga class, the teacher will usually start and end each class with breath work. The practical application of breath work is that it will help with just about any sport, from running, cycling, basketball, swimming. All of these activities take good breath control, but a large percentage of athletic ability and performance is mental. Running a Marathon is mostly mental. When you go into “the zone”, in sports it means you exceed your normal physical abilities; this is when the mind and the body connect. Part of this is caused by controlling your breath which keeps your body and mind operating at peak efficiency. Yoga uses your mind to help you build a healthy body and in return-it makes you an all around better athlete, mom, boss, or person in general!