The primary focus of āsana practice is the unity of the body, breath and mind. One way of achieving this unity is through the co-ordination of breath and movement – as the body moves into a position, the mind focuses on the correct breathing, speed and direction for that movement. This integration of body, breath and mind is the purpose of yoga.
In āsana, ideal breathing involves both the chest and the abdomen and moves the spine in ways that enhance each posture. The inhalation begins in the upper chest, which naturally straightens or arches the spine slightly, and continues into the lower part of the lungs. Starting with a gentle contraction of the abdomen, exhalation begins from the bottom of the chest and works upwards.
Ideally, breathing in āsana should be smooth, slow and steady, with awareness, control and sustained attention throughout the series of movements and postures – if your entire being is involved, the movements and postures will have a much greater impact.
The sound and feel of the breath gives important information on what you are doing, For example, a change in the quality of the breath may indicate that you need to rest. The breathing you should use in asana practice is called ujjāyī breathing.
Patañjali defines āsana, the physical postures of yoga, as a state where the dual qualities of sthira – firmness, steadiness, stillness and effort – and sukha – softness, openness, lightness and comfort – are both present together.
It is an expression of the mind, body and breath working together in a balanced manner to achieve a balanced result.
How do we achieve this balance between attentive steadiness and open space in āsana?
The breath in āsana is a particularly important indicator of sthira and sukha. If it becomes short and laboured, or so easy that our minds wander, we know we are not practicing yoga.
Recognising our limitations, adapting the posture appropriately and focussing our attention and awareness will create this balance.
Do I balance firmness with softness, strictness with ease, and stability with letting go?
And how can I develop these opposing yet complementary qualities in my daily life?
My first new Saturday morning class at the Cambourne Fitness and Sports Centre was very enjoyable from my point of view. I hope everyone felt the same! What a lovely studio! We focused on the breath in āsana and finished with seated ujjāyī. Next week our focus will be Yoga Sutra Ch2, v46 - sthira-sukham-āsanam - 'posture is firm and pleasant'
The first Introductory Yoga Study workshop in 2013 has just been successfully completed!
A very big thank you indeed to our participants for their commitment, hospitality and feedback.
We're very much looking forward to the next course in March 2013.
The 2013 IYS workshop dates and venue are now confirmed!
After visiting many central Cambridge locations, the venue for the 2013 courses has been chosen for its closeness to the train station, excellent parking, its tranquil and comfortable space with full facilities.
We are delighted to confirm that the first 2013 IYS workshop will be held at St John's Church , Hills Road, Cambridge.
See the St John's website for location and other information at
2013 course dates
5 and 12 January 2013
9 and 16 March 2013
9 and 16 November 2013