Posted on September 30th, 2010
Breath is the foundation in yoga that fuels the physical practice with vitality while saturating ourselves with awareness to Self. Through conscious breathing, we empower our yoga practice to be the bridge between body and spirit. Yoga teachers continuously emphasis the importance of breath as we enter, exist, and exit our yoga poses. But what is it that makes the breath empowering? I feel that it is not just processing of breathing, but the actual tone of our unique breathwork that enhances the benefits of our yoga practice.
What is tone?
Tone can be viewed as the quality of our breathing. Note the word 'quality' versus quantity. Often, we can see in yoga classes, students striving to develop a powerful, pronounced breath. We can hear the rumbling of Ujjaiya (victorious breath) throughout the room. But if we listen attentively and carefully, this eager use of breath can be misconstrued into a pattern of struggle. The breath is pushed aggressively into the corners of the lungs. This agressive nature vibrates harshly through the vocal chambers-excessive narrowing of this vocal passage slows down the breath, but places unnecessary pressure on breathing mechanics. This emphasis of quantity over quality acts negatively on blood pressure and distorts the intention of calming the nervous system.
With all this, Ujjaiya is an incredible breathwork to add to the practice. But Ujjaiya or basic breathing should facilitate connection and not become an extension of the Ego-a manifestation of physical drive. Just like we are best suited to start every practice by slowly introducing warmth and awareness into the body, so too should we ease into our breathing patterns.
Take the time to center and observe. Is there resistance in breathing? Where does the breath naturally flow at first? Take the breath initially into those places of ease and become awake to the quality. Enjoy with no force, and at the most, only subtle effort drawing in the breath and the accompanying prana (life energy). If adding Ujjaiya, softly bring narrowing to the throat and observe the body's reaction. The vocal passage does not become rigid. The breath continues to flow in a fluid, calming manner. We remain sensitive to the sound as well as to the texture. Feel the coolness of breath as it enters, the warmth of the breath as it exits. Breathing in harmonious space, breathing out leaving release and acceptance.
Our breath is our guide to shedding the Ego. Each whisper in the throat acts as reminder to listen to the physical body and dissipate the desires of the mind. Each rise of the inhale remains complete bringing control, patience and grace to our movements. Each fall of the exhale brings light and relevance to the changes that build in our practice. Breath is our Yoga. The quality and tone of the breath are a reflection of the integrity and state of our poses. From this quality in the physical practice and breathwork, we envelop our energy and spiritual practice with purpose and relevance.
Article by Kreg Weiss
Tags: Yoga Tips, Yoga, breath, Spiritual Path, Yoga for Beginners, benefits of yoga