The dance of breath
Breath-it is the first thing we do when we enter the world and the last thing we do as we leave it. It is something that is considered natural as we go throughout our day to day activities. No one ever really thinks about taking a breath-inhale or exhale, it just happens.
I think back to my first yoga class and don’t recall any specific focus on breathing, just using a mention of Ujjayi breath as we took a pose or moved through a flow. I did my best, but I don’t think I had a full understanding of it. Moving through my own journey I have an understanding of Ujjayi and its purpose~creating heat, warming the body, creating space and bringing focus. The sound that Ujjayi provides, helps us to synchronize breath with movements, making the entire yoga practice more rhythmic. Before, I was only practicing asana, but nothing breathing optimally.
Now, if you have been practicing yoga for a while you may be familiar with the relationship of breath & movement. You may understand that certain movements correspond to either an inhale or an exhale~each complimenting and facilitating on another. I like to look at like a dance….because over time this practice begins to feel so natural the breath and movement flow, similar to the movement of a dancer. You begin to flow as the breath flows and you think less of the specifics. You start to notice that you will breathe in a way that, for the most part, matches your practice.
Practicing the dance
As you practice your breath, there is an important aspect of this relationship that may not be notice right away, or perhaps it is left out. Not only is your breath linked to the movement, but it should initiate it. Even before your arms rise in Suryanamaskara (Sun Salutation), your inhale should start. By doing this, you use your energy of breath to lift your arms. Before you take that forward fold, exhalation guides your descent. Taking time to practice breath initiating movement will change your practice, I know it did for me. I feel that not only does it take me deeper into a pose, but deeper into the practice. It has heighten my awareness of each pose – I feel the movement, I feel the dance.
For those that are just being, you may not be able to initiate every single movement – especially learning Ujjayi breath, but try as much as possible and you will begin to see it become more natural. Taking that inhale to initiate the lengthening of your body, exhaling as you come down to catch your toes in Padangustasana (big toe pose). Take an inhale lifting the head and chest – creating more length and space, exhale coming deeper into the pose. Staying here for 5 breathes-releasing tension and lengthening. Inhale, lifting the head and chest, exhale releasing the pose. Maybe as you get more comfortable your breath will become deeper. Consider experimenting with your breath while you practice and notice how your practice will evolve when you let the breath take the lead.
Breath is life
There is a profound connection between the breath and the mind. Breath is vital. Breath is life. Without any deliberate effort, continuously breathed by our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)- and unlike any other ANS actions in the body, we are able to take voluntary control over our breathing. This can influence our Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System. When we breath Ujjayi breath we transform the automatic into the deliberate and thereby become the master of our internal picture. We can positively affect how we feel be adjusting the length, air volume and sound of those inhales and exhales.
Like in my own practice and in the classes I teach- I focus more on the breath. In class, I call every inhale and exhale. This sets the rhythm – like a human metronome – which you begin to internalize.
“As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward” – B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life.
Lorie, Team SivaOM Yoga