Hello and Happy Monday,
Wishing you a very Happy Mother’s Day! I taught my annual class at Lululemon Old Town with my kids and every year seems to get better. This year my kids didn’t climb all over me, run and hide in the big dressing room, or ask me to take them to the bathroom. In some ways, I missed that part of teaching the class. The thing is, everything is changing all around us whether we want it to or not, and we will miss it if we aren’t paying attention. As annoying as those interruptions are, that’s what I wind up missing the most when they don't happen.
This week the focus is still on Tapas (discipline), the third Niyama (personal observance), and this week I want to talk about the breath. Specifically, Ujjāyi Prānāyāma. First, Prānāyāma – Prana, life force or energy, Yama – control. Yet, in Sanskrit when there is an “a” in front of a word, it changes it to be the opposite. So Pranayama could be defined as “Free Life Force”, or one I like better, “direction of the force”. Ujjaya means victorious. “The prefix ud attached to verbs and nouns means upwards or superiority in rank. It also means blowing and power. Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph, or success. Looked at from another viewpoint it implies restraint or curbing. Ujjāyi is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puffed out like that of a proud conqueror.” – Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar Ujjāyi Prānāyāma - victorious breath!
Ujjāyi Prānāyāma is used in most flow classes. It’s used for many reasons. Some of the reasons I use it and was taught to use it was for help in calming the nervous system and for building heat in the body, stoking the fire (agni) with the tapas. Ujjāyi is that Darth Vader breath, it’s the ocean like sound breath we make when we constrict the back of our throats. It’s the breath I was taught to try to maintain throughout the class, or at least keep coming back to it. To help me stay focused and aware.
Our breath is powerful, on average we take about 25,000 breaths a day, most of those are involuntary – meaning, we are not even aware that we are breathing or even the quality of our breath. Yoga is a path to awareness and it starts and ends, with the breath.
The questions I ask myself as I practice the postures are, “How does this feel?”, “Where do I feel it?”, “What am I feeling?”, “Can I change it with my breath?”. This allows me to not only slow down but to really pay attention. When we are aware of what is happening on the inside we can be aware of what is happening on the outside.
Take the next few moments – notice how you are sitting or standing.
This is a simple practice that can be done multiple times a day. It’s not only a great way to create discipline and focus, but it can help to re-direct you and keep you calm where you might not have been.
Try it and let me know,