In Part II of this series, I argued that yoga is the perfect antidote for economic hard times. As modern yoga masters Iyengar and Bhajan state, yoga was created over 5,000 years ago to help the everyday individual “satisfy all human needs” in the face of “hardship and suffering” and the challenges of “making a living, raising a family, and finding meaning and purpose.” Yoga is perfect for tough times since it is tough: tried, true, deep, modifiable, and life-transforming. weight loss
In this article, we will look at breathing exercise (pranayama) and physical exercise (asana), two of yoga’s eight major areas of wellness, so you can create and develop a yoga practice during days when time and money might be scarcities. We’ll start with breathing and move onto the physical exercises.
1) Breathing Exercise (pranayama):
Save yourself energy and make yourself feel stronger and more relaxed by practicing yoga breathing.
First, exercise without breath control is not worth doing. It is a waste of energy to huff and puff through a workout, but we often do because we are encouraged to push, compete, and strain while we engage in athletic-based movement (e.g., running, basketball). What’s worse, many of us are ‘top’ or chest breathers, utilizing only one-third of our lungs’ capacity, and since typical athlete-focus exercise systems do not teach us to feed our moving muscles and joints with great amounts of oxygen, many traditional exercise systems do little for our health and in fact over time often wear the body down.
When practiced with mindful breathing, on the other hand, yoga gives back as much energy as it uses, and this is one of yoga’s greatest noted benefits. As yoga master Bikram Choudhury states, “Yoga is a gas station.” You do not burn up energy when you practice, but rather gain it. Yoga makes you incredibly fuel-efficient, which is of course highly economical.
The best news is that pranayama costs nothing. It only takes time and repetition. To get the most out of your poses, and your life, practice long, deep breathing (yoga breathing) often. Inhale and exhale exclusively through the nose, filling and emptying the lungs with a relaxed chest and back and an active, soft belly. I provide a link at the end of this article to a video demonstrating this ancient, healing breathing technique that is the backbone, if you will, of yoga. Eventually, you will be a deep breather automatically, even when your heart rate is very high from physical exercise.
2) Physical Exercise (asana):
Whether you are short on money or time (or both) these days, here are some ways to get the most out of yogic physical exercise. We’ll first look at yoga for those short on money and then to yoga for those short on time.
A. If you are short on money:
I do not wish to put any yoga studio out of business, but the good news in hard economic times is that yoga need not be expensive, and classes are not the only place where you can learn and practice. I practiced yoga in my home on and off for three years before taking a class, my only investment a $15.00 mat. Develop or deepen a regular home yoga practice. There are many tools to help you.
The greatest tool is the library. I first learned yoga by borrowing yoga books and videos/DVDs from my local library, and you can do the same, even if you are an advanced practitioner. Make it part of your practice to track borrowed materials’ due dates to avoid overdue fines.
Other tools for learning yoga poses are Yoga Journal’s website and free downloads of many high-quality yoga class video podcasts featuring many great teachers. Research your virtual teachers and try many out, and trust that you know enough yoga, and that they are knowledgeable enough, to provide you with a good home yoga practice. When practiced mindfully, yoga can be a beautiful, solo endeavor.
If you are a beginner, avoid power, vinyasa, or Ashtanga yoga videos/DVDs unless they are beginning level. These styles move very quickly or are rigorous, and not every beginner enjoys that or benefits from that speed and effort. If you already know yoga, though, these styles can create a vigorous home practice that when practiced regularly can easily eliminate the need for a fitness center membership.
If you want to attend an inexpensive yoga class, start with your local YMCA. I teach at mine, and my students pay just $4.00 per class; there is no studio in my city that comes close to meeting that deal. Your local recreation department is also a good place to look for inexpensive yoga. My city’s program offers yoga for about $6 per class.
Search online using your town/city/neighborhood and ‘yoga’ as keywords. You will find many experienced, registered yoga instructors not affiliated with a yoga studio who often offer ‘donation’ (pay what you can) classes. Talk to teachers in advance about their donation classes to determine if they would agree to receive smaller donations from you for awhile.
Got a special skill or talent? Talk with independent yoga instructors about trading your talent and time for free yoga instruction.
Finally, find out if there is Yoga Alliance-recognized teacher training in your area. If there is, talk to the trainers about classes their trainees might teach, which might be offered at a reduced rate.
B. If you are short on time:
Yoga is perfect for those with little time on their hands. A few minutes of deep breathing and classic poses can alter your look, your outlook, and your health.
If you have very little time to exercise, try this 15-minute sequence (13 minutes of poses plus 2 minutes for between-pose preparation and breaks). Use yoga breathing and take breaks when necessary.
-Mountain: 1 minute
-Downward Facing Dog: 1 minute
-Triangle: 1 minute each side
-Downward Facing Dog: 1 minute
-Tree: 30 seconds each side
-Upward Boat: 30 seconds
-Cobra: 30 seconds
-Seated Forward Bend: 1 minute
-Shoulder Pose: 1 minute
-Reclined Twist: 1 minute each side
-Relaxation: 3 minutes (use natural breathing here)
Are you strapped for time and need/want fast results from yoga? Try hot yoga. By adding heat to your practice room with an energy-efficient space heater, or by wearing stretchy, water-wicking layers to keep your body’s heat close to you, your muscles and joints get stronger and more flexible faster: heat boosts results. If you have cash to spare, take a hot classical yoga class (minimum temperature should be 90 degrees).
Engaging a Yoga Alliance-registered instructor for a private one-hour session can help you make the most of your exercise time. Many yoga instructors teach privately. Ask your instructor to consult with you before your session about your physical exercise goals so that your hour instruction is tailored just for you. Ask your instructor to provide you with thorough notes and handouts to help you practice on your own. A private yoga session averages about $70/hour here in the Midwest.