By Lori Popkewitz Alper, Moms Clean Air Network
During my first pregnancy I went into labor during my weekly yoga class. I was in a very awkward downward dog position stretching my swollen, achy body. After feeling the first contraction I left my yoga mat behind (along with my shoes) and somehow managed to get myself home. Three kids later (my oldest son is 11) I can proudly declare that Iíve been practicing yoga on and off for 16 years. And Iím not alone.
- Twenty million people practice yoga in the United States and that number is on the rise. †
What brings people to yoga?
My husband introduced me to my first yoga class 16 years ago. We took the class together at a local studio. In no time we were hooked. Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons: spirituality, relaxation, health issues, exercise and just sheer curiosity. But a common thread holds all yoga practitioners together-the longer we continue to practice, the clearer the bigger picture becomes: the key to gaining the full benefits of yoga is to breathe deeply both on and off the mat.
Pranayama (the Breath)
One of the eight limbs of yoga (steps to yoga) is pranayama or breathing exercises. Yoga focuses on the importance of breath for two reasons:
1. It is the only way to supply our bodies and organs with oxygen, which is vital for our health.
2. Breathing helps eliminate waste products and toxins from our body.
To breathe is to live, and without breath there is no life. A natural extension of this is that clean air is needed to take a successful and cleansing breath.
Why clean air?
Yoga is a combination of asana (postures) pranayama, and other practices that all work together to purify our body. But the current state of the environment makes this very challenging as our bodies become polluted by the harsh toxins present in the air we breathe. This is why it is so important for our bodies and our childrenís bodies to breathe clean air.
Every year I spend a few days at one of my favorite places on the planet, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, located in the gorgeous Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. Itís my temporary escape from the ongoing demands of everyday life and the pollutants in todayís environment.† During my short time at Kripalu, I practice yoga, relax and eat some of the most amazing food. Yoga is about creating balance not only our personal lives, but in the world. Getting involved and working together to make the world a better place is all an extension of yoga on the mat. While at Kripalu, Iím reminded of the importance of the breath and the need for all of us to join together, on and off the matÖto TAKE ACTION for cleaner air.
Air Pollution And Yoga Donít Mix
Whenever we are confronted with a challenge, both on and off the mat, yoga provides us with the tools to create positive change. Air pollution is one of the larger, looming issues we all must combat that directly affects us during our yoga practice and throughout life. Whether our yoga practice is sporadic, consistent or virtually non-existent, yoga paves the way for action and change. Air pollution and yoga can not coexist.
All of us at Moms Clean Air Force have combined forces to fight for our right to clean air.