We are continually instructed to “breathe consciously” when we are in yoga class. Breathing consciously is the essence of yoga as it help us in connecting with the subtle energy within. It is through the breath that we are able to navigate different levels of consciousness.
Breathing consciously has a biological effect on our mental, emotional, and physical state, when you breathe consciously you activate a different part of your brain. By changing the breathing pattern, you can produce different states of mind. Slowing down the breath has an impact on your emotional state.
In vinyasa yoga we usually practice Ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word that means “one who is victorious;” so Ujjayi breath means “breath of victory” or “victorious breath.” This is because the technique brings a sense of upliftment, power, and confidence to the practitioner. To do Ujjayi breath, close your mouth and breathe deeply through your nose. As you do so, slightly contract the muscles at the back of the throat. Doing so will create the rhythmic, calming sound of ocean waves, which sooth and focus the mind. This unique attribute gives this breathing technique its other name: the ocean breath.
The Ujjayi breath allows more prana, our vital life-force, to enter the mind-body system.
When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or nervous, the slow, concentrated, rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath has been shown to be effective in calming the nervous system almost immediately.
The meditative quality brought about by the steadiness, sound, and depth of the Ujjayi breath helps align the mind, body, and spirit with the present moment, making us more self-aware.
So, breathing does matter in yoga. And breath that is smooth, steady, and evenly balanced in length and application is important. It’s the attention to breath that sets Yoga apart from other physical practices as an exercise that’s energizing as well as relaxing. It’s this attention to breath that deepens the impact of
Yoga on health, soothes the mind, and introduces a tranquil and spiritual element into the practice.
Next time you think Yoga, think breath, and breathe deeply!