Sometimes the thing I learn is a negative. Part of growing up and separating from your parents is deciding "I don't want to ever do that." What I have been learning recently is that many teachers are so busy teaching that they don't take the time to breathe. That is to say, the best teachers are the ones who are truly present with us in the practice, and not simply filling airspace with instructions.
My yoga practice involves tuning in to my own inner voice, and being present with my breath and body. This was a great learning for me, because I grew up very American, unaware of my body, or worse, in denial of it.
Yoga teaches us to breath consciously. I breathe. You breathe. Too often we take it for granted. In yoga you watch your breath, you feel it coming and going from a nostril, you put a hand on your belly to help you notice how the gut moves with the breath. One useful practice is to make the ujaye breath. Pranayama is the practice of intentional breathing, and there are many kinds. The awareness of the breath is foundational to the practice.
When a teacher is not breathing consciously, and they give instructions about breathing, the teacher is useless. What is the point of telling us to "take 10 breaths" in this position if you expect us to follow your "flow" before we've completed three breaths? It takes time to breathe. Breathing out deeply allows us to sink into poses more completely, and inhaling reminds us to lenthen our spines.
In a position like the standing forward bend (uttasana) I can exhale for a very long time. As I continue to let air out, the bend gets deeper. In a balancing pose of any kind, exhaling puts the deepest core to work. Rushing through asanas with an externally dictated "flow" denies us the fruit of the practice.
It takes time to breathe. If we don't breathe deeply in daily life, we are anxious and sickly. Never exhaling is to live in a ramped up state that leads to burnout. If we are holding our breath or panting through asana practice, we are cheating ourselves.
There are teachers who breathe consciously while teaching. The easy way for a teacher to approach this is to do the practice with us, instead of standing over us. Some teachers breathe so loudly that you can hear their ujaye breath across the room. Inhale heighten, exhale twist. Inhale up, exhale down. In every position and movement the breath can heighten or hinder the experience, and if the teacher is conscious enough to breathe intentionally, it supports the class' effort to do the same.
This is a plea to yoga teachers at every level to bring the conscious breath into their teaching as well as their practice. I am tired of being rushed and not allowed to breathe fully, and I am one of those rebels who doesn't transition when ordered.