Breath gives us life, and with yoga, breath, and life, takes on a whole new dimension.
This is the central theme of Why We Breathe, the latest yoga documentary released in late February, which explores the practice of yoga from the perspective of six nationally recognized yoga teachers. The 50-minute documentary rotates between interview clips with the teachers as they share how they discovered yoga, what they love about it, and why they still come back to their yoga practice day after day.
“People are initially drawn to yoga…for the physical side of it, because people are looking for ways to get in shape and look fit and be healthy, and that’s definitely what helps get people through the door,” sas yoga teacher Angela Tara Hsu. “But what keeps them there and what hooks them and keeps them coming back is once they cross over the physical part of it, and they reach the mental benefits, the spiritual benefits, the healing benefits, on a much deeper level.”
John Yax, another interviewee, had been practicing martial arts for years before his sister, a longtime yoga practitioner, agreed to teach a yoga class to the group that Yax practiced martial arts with. “We felt amazing afterwards, so it sparked my interest,” he said. His brother Chris, part of the martial arts group as well, was also hooked.
“Once I started practicing [yoga], it didn’t take long for me to realize how powerful it was in terms of healing the body,” Chris said. “We were always practicing martial arts with the intention of dissolving the ego and being able to see clearly when you’re in a confrontation. And I realized through this practice of yoga that it was like the rocket ship to where we were going, where in one class, it took years for me to achieve that state of presence or stillness in the midst of the martial arts world. And within one or two classes, I’d experienced it, and realized that there was something more than just the physical healing of it—it was the space that was created in my mind and body that just felt amazing.”
All the teachers interviewed had slightly different introductions to yoga, of course, as well as different reasons for falling head over heels for it. It seems like the practice gave each of the teachers exactly what they had been searching for, as if yoga morphs to fit the needs of whoever is using it.
For Briohny Smith, yoga helped her get out of her head, as she puts it. “I think that a lot of our insecurities and fears come from us believing the thoughts that are in our heads all the time, and yoga helped me…quiet those thoughts down.” And while she realizes that yoga won’t rid her of all her negative thoughts all the time, she said that she is now better able to deal with it when she does have those thoughts, thanks to all the tools that her yoga practice offers.
For Briohny's husband, up-and-coming yoga star Dice Iida-Klein, it was the calming, stress-relieving benefits that originally attracted him to yoga. “I’ve always needed something physical to at least allow me to sleep and allow me to calm down," says Iida-Klein. "There’s a lot that goes on in my head, so it’s always been a good way of chilling out—really just working myself physically.”
Although he was a competitive athlete for most of his life, doing baseball and hockey for several years each, plus cross country, tennis and wrestling in his teenage years, Iida-Klein said yoga was something entirely different and unexpected. During one of his first yoga classes, a Vinyasa flow 2-3 level course, he said, “I remember 40 minutes in thinking I’ve never had my butt handed to me like this before—just sweat, all over the floor. Inversion time came…and that was the first time something had ever made me like ‘I need to relax; I need to chill.’” Pleased with the sudden and unexpected response to calm down, the seasoned athlete was hooked.
Why We Breathe, is a wonderful inspiring movie about the many ways in which yoga touches and inspires us. Watch the full documentary for free and catch all of the interview clips at www.whywebreathe.com. It opens with a beautifully inspiring slow-mo rendition of yoga on the beach, and is sure to get you feeling motivated to hit your mat.
Why We Breathe - A Yoga Documentary from BackToAwake on Vimeo.
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