Friday, July 16, 2010
The intention of this yoga practice is to bring yourself to greater awareness of self. Sometimes this can be a challenge, especially when we’re faced with so many responsibilities and activities in our daily lives. We find that we are continually distracted by life’s events that it gives us little time to take care of ourselves. Again, this practice is for YOU so that you can put aside those obligations for a moment and pay attention to your inner needs.
This will be a relatively simple yoga practice. It will focus primarily on your breath. It can also be considered a type of meditation. Breath is the foundation of the yoga practice. It provides a base and structure that allows one to be at peace with self.
Start by sitting comfortably cross-legged on your yoga mat or on the floor. You will be here awhile, so be sure you are very comfortable. Sit on a cushion or blanket to help support your sitting posture. If sitting up on your own is uncomfortable, sit up against a wall. Sit up nice and tall, with your hands and arms fully relaxed. Close your eyes. Take a moment just to settle into your space. Make any adjustments in your body so that you feel as comfortable as possible.
Breath: As you sit in stillness and silence, begin to pay attention to your breathing. You don’t have to do anything special or different with your breath at this point. Simply be aware that you are breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
As we focus on the breath, the foundation of the yoga practice, we begin to tune OUT the things going on outside of us and begin to tune IN to the things going on inside of us. Just sit here with breath. Feel your breath. Listen to the sound of your breath. Breathe as if there is nothing else to do. If you cannot hear your breath, begin to breathe a little slower and deeper. Truly begin to experience the flow and feel of your breath.
Let’s begin to add more energy to this breathing sensation so that you can be even more aware of the breath inside of you. What follows is a breathing technique that will help you engage the breath and bring more energy to the breath. Right now, you are probably feeling air move through your nostrils. We are going to shift this way of breathing to another that will allow for more intentional breathing. We will engage what is called Ujjayi breath. (Pronounced oo-jah-yee.) This involves using your throat muscles to help move the breath with more effort.
For a moment, open and breathe through your mouth. Breathe out as if you are fogging a mirror. You may feel a sensation in the back of your throat as you exhale. You may even hear a sound, something like the waves of the ocean rushing onto the beach. Inhale the same way; feel the throat muscles engage as you draw in breath into your body. Now, continue to breathe this way, but with your mouth closed. This is one form of Ujjayi breathing. You may find that you are able to inhale and exhale more slowly with a greater capacity of air. Continue to feel the breath and listen to the sound of the ocean as you exhale.
Breathing this way keeps your attention and focus on yourself. You are breathing with intention. You may discover that you are no longer thinking about your other life obligations. You have simply set them aside for a moment to pay more attention to yourself: awareness. If you are new to this way of breathing, practice this dynamic breath work for 30 seconds to 1 minute. That doesn’t sound like a very long time at first, but it’s enough time to grow more aware of yourself. It grounds you and you’ll feel more connected to yourself. As you continue this breath practice, you may find, over time, that you can do it for a longer period of time.
This is a relatively simple yoga practice and can be done ANYTIME and ANYWHERE. Here’s a perfect example. Imagine yourself at work faced with deadlines, to-do lists, and other responsibilities that take up a lot of physical and mental energy. As the work piles up, do you find that “you just can’t take it anymore” and need a break? Once you are aware of this thought, stop what you’re doing and come back to this practice. Sit in your office chair or better yet, close your office door, shut off the lights, sit on the floor, and take 1-2 minutes to practice your Ujjayi breathing. You may be amazed at the results. Do you feel more relaxed, clear headed, present? Perhaps this little breathing exercise is all you needed to get through the rest of your day. It’s sometimes better than grabbing that candy bar or a cup of coffee to get that boost of energy.
Try this exercise if you are having trouble sleeping. Usually, we are distracted by running thoughts in our heads. We may be worrying about tomorrow’s assignments or recounting the events of today. With an active mind, it can be difficult to fall asleep. Lie comfortably in your bed. Bring your attention to your breathing. Feel your breath. Listen to the sound of your breath. You’ll begin to be more in tuned with your own being which allows those other thoughts to dissipate. Whenever a straying thought emerges, however, simply be aware of the thought, acknowledge it, then return to the breath. Continue this exercise and you may find that the mind and body begin to relax allowing you to go to sleep.