This article is written specifically for teachers but you can easily apply the ideas to your home practice. If you teach yoga, you’ve probably tried a lot of different strategies to making your classes harder. We want to suggest one that’s pretty obvious in retrospect but flies under the radar.
Decrease the breathing rate to make a class harder. Instead of focusing exclusively on making poses more intense, you can make the rounds of inhales and exhales go a lot longer, which actually adds a really difficult challenge and leaves people working hard to keep their breathing rhythmic without taking extra gulps of air.
I thought of this idea because of a couple classes I’ve attended recently by a great teacher named Taylor. I brought up after class how I noticed that she keeps the breathing rate slower than most other teachers and that it made things more difficult, and she responded that it’s because she used to be a swimmer and has really big lungs. She breathes with us during class, moderating our inhales and exhales to what she’s capable of handling.
Give it a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how challenging your students find a sequence of poses that may not have been as difficult for them before. It’s also great yoga training. You’re helping them increase lung capacity and grow accustomed to being able to keep breathing at a really slow rate despite intense physical exertion, which well let them better moderate their circulatory systems including blood pressure and heart rate.