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Archive for September 1st, 2008

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Here’s a really helpful “what not to do” in yoga class for your Labor Day Weekend-for your own health and for the sanity of those around you.  A quick review of Ujjayi breathing may make you think twice before you hyperventilate in your next class…nobody likes a loud breather…

Pranayama essentially translates to”lengthening of the prana or breath”. Prāna, specifically means life force (particularly, the breath) while “āyāma” in this case means to lengthen. It is a word you’ve probably all heard being used- usually in the context of controlling one’s breath.

One of the techniques of pranayama linked to our physical practice is called Ujjayi breathing.  Ujjayi is often taught as making the sound of the ocean or a cats purr in the back of your throat as you breath with intention in and out of your nose. The inhalations and exhalations are of equal duration and sometimes there can also be a slight retention of the breath at the top of the inhalation as well as at the bottom of the exhalation.

My problem with Ujjayi breath is that people often mistake its purpose.  For most yogis the breath is meant to be audible- this helps us focus on the breath and link our breath to our movements, etc. It’s also nice to hear your neighbors breath as a reminder to reconnect with your own in times of stress.

However the important part of the Ujjayi breath is not so much the sound as it is the sensation of vibration.  In fact, Ujjayi breathing is generally soundless amongst the very experienced.

I guess my point is that the Ujjayi breath is supposed to be somewhat effortless.  Yes, it’s okay to hear the breath of the guy next to you.  What I hate to hear and see is some guy up front laboring so intensely to breathe audibly that he’s not only disturbing the rest of the class but exhausting himself in the first 15 minutes of class. Lets keep in mind that the breath is ultimately what is supposed to keep you calm and at ease in the more demanding poses.  So play around with the level of noise you’re making- sometimes less is more!

-Eliza

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Time and time again people tell me that they wish they could practice at home but that they’re just not sure what to do. Personally I’m not a fan of yoga DVD’s but I would recommend them to beginners who are not as familiar with the principals of sequencing or how a public studio class is usually run. As for more intermediate practitioners who just need a little guidance, Yoga Journal has a great tool that allows you to build a sequence in a very easy -drag and drop- manner online. Poses are organized by level and again by category (e.g. backbends). Poses are listed with an accompanying photo (both in English and Sanskrit). You can arrange, save, share or print these sequences to refer back to before or even during a practice. As you get more comfortable manipulating the order of these virtual flashcards I think you’ll see how easy it can be to begin an at home practice- with or without the added assistance.

Link: Yoga Journal Sequence Builder. Enjoy!

-Eliza

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