The ancient Yogis knew what a huge difference breathing made in their meditative practices, including the physical “asana” practice modern folks practice at places like Symmetry Yoga Alameda today. Of all the many ways we can increase flexibility and mindfulness Yoga is by far the best, because a key part of the practice is focused, meditative breathing, or “Pranayama”.
Pranayama means “energy control”, and there are a number of different styles that practitioners can use, depending on the style of yoga they’re practicing and their specific goals for their practice. Some kinds of Pranayama help energize the body and mind, while others are calming and restorative.
The most common type of Pranayama that modern yogis use is called Ujjayi Pranayama, which translates to mean “victorious breath”. This style of breathing is simultaneously calming to the nervous system, and energizing to the body. It’s soothing to the ear, and can be heard by everyone in the room when done properly, and helps to create a sense of connection between the individual practitioner, their practice, and all the other yogis in the room.
Ujjayi Pranayama sounds a little like Darth Vader, or waves crashing on the shore, or the sound you make when you fog up a mirror with your breath. It feels like a slight constriction in the back of the throat, using the same muscles you use when you’re whispering in a friend’s ear.
But how do you do it? The best way to learn is to come to a class at Symmetry Yoga Alameda and let our teachers show you the way, but in the mean time, you can follow these simple steps:
- Take a deep breath in, and then loudly whisper the word “hello”. Do you feel the breath rushing past the back of your throat, and the feeling of closing off the muscles in the back of your throat? Great! You’re ready for step two!
- Find the nearest piece of glass, like a mirror or a window. Keeping the same “whisper” muscles engaged from step 1, use a big open-mouthed exhale to fog up the glass. Then set the glass aside and keep the “whisper” muscles engaged as you take an inhale with your mouth still open. Repeat for 2-3 cycles of breath with your eyes closed, so your body remembers what it feels like.
- Last but not least, close your mouth, and take 2-3 breaths in and out of your nose, keeping the “whisper” muscles engaged. Congratulations! You’re practicing Ujjayi Pranayama!
If you’re ready to take your new skills to the mat, check the Symmetry Yoga Alameda website to pick out a class that fits your schedule! We’re excited to help you put this amazing new technique in practice!
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