Left to my own devices, I’m an anxious person. A worrier. An over thinker. My thoughts run like a hummingbird from one thought to another, so much so, that I couldn’t get any clarity about the direction my life should go before yoga. I find that when I’m facing a challenge, my thoughts ramp up, and get busier. It’s helpful to know that this is the JOB of the mind. The mind churns out thought after thought, not really caring if those thoughts are productive, or helpful in any way. Left to it’s own worries, the Mind, and our very emotional and physical well being and health will eventually suffer to disease. The root of “disease”, means simply that you are not at ease, something is worrying you.
Probably the biggest shift that happened when I started to practice yoga on a regular basis was the stilling of my thoughts, or at the least taming them for the time being. I found that when I’m clear headed, I am more productive, more able to focus and concentrate, generally I just feel better. However, this did not happen overnight, but when I finally figured out how to ujjayi breath during my practice. It took my a year of consistent practice to have a hold of ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi breath is a sonorous sounding breath that can be heard across the room. Ujjayi breath is all done through the nose, with a slight constructive closing at the back of the throat. This helps particularly with people who clench their jaw when they practice or do anything really, with effort. Ujjayi breathing helps open the channels, and clear out the cob webs of the body and mind. It can be particular helpful to use when entering an asana or posture that is difficult for you. Benefits of ujjayi breath are:
- Increases the amount of oxygen in the blood
- Builds internal body heat
- Relieves tension
- Encourages free flow of prana
- Regulates blood pressure
- Helps yoga practitioner to maintain a rhythm while they practice
- Builds energy
- Detoxifies mind and body
- Increases feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative qualities
Ujjayi breath can be practiced both on and oﬀ the mat. Next time you’re feeling stressed or uneasy, practice your Ujjayi breath for a few minutes to calm both the physical and emotional bodies. Here is how to do it. Place a straw in your mouth, and draw in. You should feel a slight constriction at the back of the throat. Begin to deeply breath in and out through the nose, feeling the breath originate from the diaphragm, or down below the belly. I found it helpful to practice it all throughout the day; in the car, after lunch, or working at my desk. You can also take a mini break during the day, lay on your back with knees bent and place a sand bag on the lower abdomen. (I have sandbags at the studio for sale), or you can use anything heavy, 10 lbs. or so. Doing this overtime with help strengthen the diaphragm and make ujjayi breathing a breeze to master.
Now I find periods of stillness in my thoughts, that extend to minutes at a time. Practice it. Move with it. Workout using ujjayi breathing. Find your peace in the chaos of life. Still and be chill my friend.
See you on the mat,