A common question regarding yoga is: how do I breathe?
It is highly likely that you will hear your instructor to mention this.
But maybe you’ve noticed that some people breathe in a way that sounds a little different that what you are used to. The ranges in intensity can vary from extremely loud to a soft ocean wave.
So what is this breathing all about, exactly, and how do I do it?
Breathing is a so natural, yet we don’t fully grasp how much it affects our bodies when we are not aware of it. It is arguably one of the most important aspects of a yoga practice given its power to transform our bodies and our minds far more than any pose ever will on its own.
It is a telling sign of what is going on inside.
It is when we focus on the breath that we let go of our thoughts, our past and our futures and just BE. Through our breath we can soften our bodies and sink further into a pose or energize us to get us through it. We can use the focus on a steady breath to break through mental blocks that keeps us from achieving our full potential.
In yoga there is a special way of breathing called ujjayi (ooh-JAH-ee), meaning ‘victorious’ in Sanskrit. It is a slow and deep breath in and out of the nose, with inhalations and exhalations of the same length.
To do this breath, constrict the back of your throat slightly with your mouth closed and tongue relatively relaxed. Inhale slowly through your nose, taking in a full steady breath, then exhale slowly for the same amount of time.
You should hear a soft sound. If it reminds you a little bit of Darth Vader, you’ve got it.
If this type of yogic breathing is not familiar to you, practice it sitting down with your eyes closed and notice how you feel afterwards.
Use this breath to guide your movements the next time you break out your mat and take notice if your practice feels different.
With practice you will begin to apply this to life out side the mat and let your breath guide your days instead of letting your days guide your breath.