Yoga is about so much more than movement; it is a holistic practice which marries the body, breath and mind in pursuit of moments of clarity. Laurent’s approach to yoga is meditative and intuitive. He teaches using the tenets of self-observance, self-awareness and self-acceptance. Through thoughtful practice you will learn how to hone and master each of these essential skills. You will work on bringing your mind and body together in harmony by utilising the classical tools of yoga such as asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation and visualisation techniques.
Every class with Laurent is different; the mind follows what the body can do at the moment of your practice. Postures are moved into with considered kindness and bodily boundaries are not pushed for the sake of it. The powerful practices of pranayama, meditation, and yoga nidra are given a special focus in Laurent’s teaching, as he feels that only through mastery of these mindful endeavours can one’s yoga practice truly flourish.
Pranayama and Breathwork
Prana means energy, life force or breath in Sanskrit and yama is translated as restraint or control. The word pranayama is therefore roughly akin to breathing techniques and it is a core facet of a robust yoga practice. Pranayama goes hand in hand with asanas and meditation, it is not merely an add-on but an essential component of a well-rounded and rewarding yoga practice. In the yoga sutra, the rituals of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self-discipline for the mind and the body, respectively.
In practice, pranayama is the measuring, controlling and directing of the breath. When the in-flowing breath is perfectly aligned with the out-flowing breath, then total relaxation and balance of the body are attained.
Through exploring pranayama, we can learn how to locate the breath, understand the anatomy of the breath, find the rhythm of our breath and understand how energy moves around our bodies.
The benefits of pranayama are said to include:
- Slowing down the heart rate.
- Stabilising blood pressure.
- Developing body awareness, concentration, mindfulness, focus, and stamina.
- Promoting muscle relaxation and pain management.
- Decreasing feelings of stress.
- Managing anxiety and depression.
- Increasing energy levels.
Laurent’s pranayama teachings combine ancient wisdom with contemporary insight and are accessible to all levels, no experience of pranayama is necessary to derive benefit from them.
In the hatha yoga practice, meditation is one of the most important parts of Pantajali’s Eight Limbs of yoga. It falls under the term ‘dhyana’ and is the seventh ‘limb’ alongside yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, prathyara, dharana and samadhi. Just like pranayama, it is not considered a side practice but an utterly integral part of the yogic system. Whether we are moving in a yoga pose or sitting during pranayama, meditation helps us to be present – to be aware and to pay attention to our physical and mental movements. These moments of clarity and stillness are invaluable in our lives both on and off the yoga mat.
Meditation is not an easy state to achieve, like any other practice in which one wishes to become proficient, a daily practice is necessary to allow growth and changes. It is a journey which we must take with dedication and patience, a lifetime engagement. Your body and mind will change and your practice will too. You will learn to observe these changes and to be aware of their implications for yourself and those around you.
In this quote Bhante Gunaratana says it all “The more hours you spend in meditation, the greater your ability to calmly observe every impulse and intention, thought and emotion, just as it arises in the mind.”
Laurent’s mindful yoga classes give meditation a huge place as he recognises its extreme importance in building an effective and rewarding yoga practice. His teaching of meditation is influenced by all sort of styles and techniques, such as modern mindfulness, Buddhist techniques such as vipassana and shamatha and the yogic techniques of Satyananda and Gitananda.
The benefits of meditation are said to include:
- Decreasing stress and anxiety
- Helping boost focus and concentration
- Improving working memory
- Helping sleep disorders
- Lessening emotional reactivity and increasing cognitive flexibility
- Developing empathy, compassion and self confidence
Yoga nidra is a deep relaxation practice; a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation in which the distractions of the brain are contained and the mind is allowed to be free. During the practice, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. This practice has had a profound transformative effect on those who initiate its powers. The duration of each yoga nidra varies between fifteen and thirty minutes depending on the general level of the students in the class. Before beginning yoga nidra Laurent guides his students through a few simple postures and stretches to open up the body and to prepare it for elongated periods of stillness. During the nidra props are incorporated such as bolsters and blankets to keep the body as comfortable as possible. This relaxation and meditation practice is doable for everyone, even if you have never practiced yoga before.
The benefits of yoga nidra are said to include:
- Minimising and counteracting the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.
- Clearing up the unconscious and awakens creativity.
- Enhancing memory and learning capacity.
- Managing psychological and sleep disorders.