Yoga, Breath, Movement and Not-Yoga

That’s not a spelling mistake. I did mean Not-Yoga! Hopefully it will all become clear as you read on…

Mindful movement develops strength and skill. When this extends to breath, ease comes. Movements are light and precise: it’s energy-efficient and sustainable. Attention to technique lays a foundation of ability, literally hard-coded into the structure of the brain and body. The more challenging the activity, the easier it is to lose technique. Movements are brutish, forced; breath is harsh and shouty. Energy is wasted and it’s not efficient.

Yet continuous challenge is necessary for change. Tissues is the brain and body respond to loading patterns. We will never have different outcomes from repeating the same things. If change or development of some kind is what we seek, then some new loading is required. This could be lifestyle changes, variations in existing activities or new activities. In other words, it’s advisable to be doing something that challenges our breath, our movement, and our mindset regularly.

Ed assisting yoga student Mario to do a challenging side plank pose

I love Yoga and Hot Yoga. Pretty much everyone that goes to classes in Bristol loves their Yoga and Hot Yoga practice for sure! But I have found swimming and indoor climbing (bouldering) to be extraordinarily useful also. Both require movement technique, and both require a good breath pattern. And they are challenging. For instance, I have a fear of heights. This is why I started climbing in the first place – that was back in 2003. My fear of heights has never changed, and I don’t suppose it ever will. But my awareness within that fear certainly has. I understand the safe space around me – the three dimensions of movement I have in any moment, within which I am still balanced. I guess you would say that I am more able to cope when that fear is triggered, because I have deliberately entered it and continue to do so.

Furthermore, as brilliant as Yoga asana (physical postures) are (and they are!), they promote one kind of movement function. For complete capability, other functions need to be explored. Remember that flexibility is the means to deliver strength in any moment – so I would always advise placing Yoga and Hot Yoga at the heart of any development program, and then bolting on other movement modes as required. What does that mean? It means that, on any one day, if you have to choose between Yoga and your other activities, then Yoga is selected by default. Nothing comes before it, but lots can attach to it.

People in a hot class doing challenging shoulder balance

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, and claim that, as Yogis, we are instructed to engage in other movement modes. There is a practice called neti neti, or “not this, not this”. It’s a process of negation. We progress towards understanding totality by recognising that no one aspect of life is the absolute. Yoga and Hot Yoga are essential practices, for sure. And, they’re practices. They are tools for progressing Self-realisation; their practice is not Self-realisation.

Of course, there’s another level of reasoning here. Exclusion alone cannot take us to the deepest truths. The total, the absolute, the One is all the forms and more. As much as we say “not this”, we remember “and this” …

I would call on all Yoga practitioners in Bristol to come to Hot Yoga. A well-led Hot Yoga class can take students deep into their breath, because the conditions demand a steady, full respiration. And at Yogafurie here in Bristol, we take a very fresh approach to making the most of this effect. We have no fixed sequences. Instead, through seven different class styles ranging from meditative to dynamic, we challenge our students in new ways each week.

Yoga students being challenged in side angle pose using bricks

This article was written by Ed Wood. Ed is nuts about Yoga, and teaches at the Yogafurie studio in Bristol.

If you'd like to learn more about Yogafurie and what we do, then get in touch

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