Gentle Yoga with Rudy
Rudy leads the practice of Gentle Yoga in the Kripalu Yoga style. He emphasizes attuning to your inner experience. That attunement begins with body awareness, closely linked to the next subtler level, breath awareness. Through awareness of physical sensation and the quality of breath you can practice gentle yoga with little risk of injury or strain. Rudy helps you to explore moving in and out of postures at gradually deeper increments so that you can discover and move within your pain-free range of motion. He encourages and reminds you that you are free to release any pose at any time.
What is the intention of Gentle Yoga?
The intention of this type of yoga practice is to relax and rejuvenate your body, increase your range of motion, integrate emotions, and bring a calm stillness to the mind.
You will gain the benefits of yoga the most if you practice regularly. The best type of yoga practice is the one that you can integrate into your life. I encourage you to practice regularly (two or three times a week) even if for only 10 or 15 minutes.
When you practice yoga regularly you will increase your body awareness and improve your overall health and well-being. I recommend that you enter into stretches slowly, deepening your breath as soon as you feel a stretch; and trust that a gentle stretch will provide the benefits you expect from yoga. Yoga helps release energy blocks in the body. When you create even a mild stimulation of the circulation and a deepened state of relaxation you can rebalance and facilitate rejuvenation of the entire organism that is your body.
As you move into postures you will inevitably encounter tensions and the resistances of the physical body. You will begin to discover different degrees of comfort and discomfort. When you become more attuned to physical sensations using an internal focus, you can begin to breathe and relax into the experience of intensity; what used to feel somewhat painful might lessen to the level of discomfort.
Everybody’s experience is unique. Take time to notice the specific effects of each posture and of each practice session. Yoga helps you to develop a consciousness of moment-to-moment awareness.
As you gradually become aware of subtler sensations in the body you will increase your sensitivity to your emotions and thoughts as well.
With compassionate self-observation you can calm the mind, relax the body and reconnect to your true nature. Using a compassionate attitude you can learn how to make your practice and your daily routines, acts of self-care which is sorely needed in our fast-paced, high-pressured society.
The main precaution in yoga is to avoid sharp sensation in the joints. General rule of thumb: if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Also, please consult with your physician to insure that yoga practice is appropriate for you.
When you are stretching you want to feel the stretch in “the belly” of the muscle. However, if you experience sharp sensation (particularly around the joints) please, back off. A sharp sensation is your body’s way of warning you that you need to ease off to prevent over-stretching a tendon or ligament.
If you have osteoporosis or low-bone-density you should avoid rounding your spine. Keep your spine (and torso) lengthened and straight during all movements especially bending forward when we all have a tendency to allow the spine to round in order to reach farther. You will benefit from keeping your spine long and straight even if you don’t feel like you going very far into the posture. During twists it is best to reduce the weight of gravity on the vertebrae, therefore, twists lying on the back are safer than seated twists.
One of the goals of yoga is to calm the mind. Through reducing the speed and restlessness of the mind you can learn how to better focus on your experiences in the moment. In this way you can actually know yourself better and develop the discrimination necessary to makes choices that work better and better for you.
Quality of breath is the best barometer of appropriate degree of challenge. During sustained holdings of poses follow these general guidelines:
- Create smooth, easy breaths.
Lengthen inhalation and exhalation.
- Relax wherever you can.
Avoid gripping. Hold the body’s weight with the breath, attention and a relaxed effort.
- Focus your attention in the field of sensation. Build concentration and steady the mind with meditative effort. As often as possible bring the attention right into the present moment. “This breath. These sensations.”
Yoga is about changing our habits. ~Rodney Yee
It is our habit to shorten the breath when sensation increases. This is a coping mechanism. A wonderful defense of the human organism to ward off the shock of traumas large and small. One of the most important ways you can make your yoga practice effective is to follow this guidance: Whenever the sensation increases, deepen the breath.
Yoga is not just about feeling better. It’s about feeling more. Yoga helps us increase sensitivity and awareness. Yoga will reveal where the body is tight, where mobility is limited and where energy is blocked. Yoga is an invitation to relax, breathe, feel, and where possible let go and relax. Ultimately this helps us make more skillful, conscious choices and allows us to create greater fulfillment in life.
And It All Starts With The Breath
Inhalations help us feel. Exhalations help us relax. There are a number of powerful yogic breathing techniques. The basic ones are useful in everyday life as well.
The initial yogic breathing technique is Dirgha pranayama (pronounced Deer-guh). This is also called the Complete Breath or Three-part Breath. It is fully inflating the lungs in the three regions of the abdomen, thorax and cavicle or belly, ribs and upper chest. The full inhalation is followed by fully relaxing, allowing the breath to spill out. A simple approach is to experiment with lengthening the inhalation and exhalation. Let it be an exploration. Notice how it feels. Avoid creating tension. Notice the effect. Practice regularly. Remember inhalations help us feel. Exhalations help us relax.
May your journey in yoga be easy and pleasurable. You may begin from wherever you are. ~Rudy