Welcome to a five-part series of Why Yoga Matters. Each day you will learn about yoga, its health benefits and how the practice of yoga can enrich your life. In this part, we are going to talk briefly about the history of yoga as well as its physical and emotional benefits.
According to the World English Dictionary the definition of yoga is:
“Any method by which such awareness and tranquility are attained, esp. course of related exercises and postures designed to promote physical and spiritual wellbeing.”
Ultimately, the practice of Yoga is meant to connect body, breath, and mind to create balance and energy. It includes physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health and well-being. While there is still some debate about the actual origins of Yoga, the majority consensus concludes that it began in India three to four thousand years ago. The word yoga originates from Sanskrit which literally means of "yoke" or to join. While yoga is often considered a spiritual practice, it has never actually been viewed as a religion.
Approximately 5 million people in the United States alone practice some type of yoga, whether it be in the form of dance, stretching exercise or even martial arts classes which usually have postures and poses that come originate from yoga.
There are many types of yoga, including; Integral, Bhakti, Ananda, Hatha and many more that we will discuss in Part 2 tomorrow.
Hatha Yoga is the one of the most practiced forms of yoga. It emphasizes physical postures known as asanas. During these exercises, flexing is followed by extension, a rounded back is followed by an arched back, and physical exercise is then followed by some form of meditation.
Benefits of Yoga
The practice of Yoga has numerous benefits including increased flexibility, strength, and balance. Combined with breathing exercises and meditation it works remarkably well to help promote overall physical and mental well-being. As well as the physical and emotional benefits of yoga it has also been proven as an excellent way to reduce stress, ease panic attacks, lower blood pressure, help alleviate back pain, arthritis pain, depression, mental fog and reduce the risk of many other common health problems.
Here is a quick list of yoga benefits:
- It is known to increase flexibility with postures that trigger the different joints of the body that are not normally affected in most regular exercises routines.
- It can improve the function and lubrication of joints, ligaments and tendons, helping to alleviate pain and increase flexibility.
- Yoga is perhaps the only exercise that can be beneficial to your internal organs which hardly ever get externally stimulated during other forms of exercise. This stimulation and massage of the organs can even help prevent disease.
- Yoga increases circulation and offers a complete detoxification of the body. As it gently stretches the muscles, joints as well as well as massaging the various organs of the body it is ensuring optimum blood supply and good health.
This helps in by flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny of your body as well as providing proper nourishment to yourselves, which can promote optimum energy and a sense of well-being. it can also help delay the aging process.
These are just a few of the physical benefits associated with yoga. Yoga combined with meditation harmonizes the body and mind in a way that can only be fully understood by people who practice it. So, what are you waiting for? Why not start taking part in this age-old practice and enjoy the benefits for yourself. There's no better day, than today!
Tomorrow I will be talking about some of the more common types of yoga and their benefits.
Hand balances are a common part of yoga practice. We move from chaturanga, to downward facing dog, to upward facing dog several times during practice. Thus causing the joints of the hand, elbow and shoulder to be at risk of injury. Injuries from yoga are common. The causes of joint injury may include: stiffness, hyper-mobility, muscle weakness, or performing hand balances improperly. We should not underestimate the importance the elbow joint has in the safety of practice. The elbows are situated between two mobile joints and are prone to strain.
Like the knee, the elbow is also a complex hinge joint. Like a hinge to a door, this type of joint allows primarily one plane of motion. In the elbow, there are 4 joints (3 bones) that enable not only bending and straightening (flexion and extension), but also rotating the hand up and down. The elbow joint is designed to be stable. In addition to ligaments, there are 16 muscles that control movement in the elbow, wrist and hand. Seven muscles that cross the elbow control the elbow specifically, and the other nine control the wrist and hand. When we lack stability in the elbow joint itself through injury, we rely more heavily on muscle groups to provide the stability we lack.
If we maintain proper alignment during hand balances, it will give the muscles the advantage they need to function most effectively. As we move from plank pose to chaturanga to upward facing dog, a tremendous amount of strain is placed on the joints if they are not aligned properly. With the hands placed firmly on the ground, you are immobilizing your wrists. The pressure of your hands against the ground provides the joints stability as the muscles attempt to flex against a solid surface. However, this action may be more difficult if our wrists our wrists are stiff and tight. Not being able to achieve a solid grip or hand placement on the floor,leaves one feeling unstable through the wrists and elbows, creating strain on the joints. In chaturanga for example, we need adequate flexibility to get the hands back far enough by the rib-cage so that the elbows are at an optimal 90 degrees. This position also requires shoulder flexibility to keep the elbows close to the body and scapula firm on the rib cage so the shoulders don’t come forward. Therefore, it may be necessary to modify this pose to avoid unnecessary strain to the joints. Building strength to support our weight takes work and practice. Modifying poses like plank and chaturanga by putting the knees on the mat is a great way to build strength over time.
Following these safety tips will prevent unnecessary injuries during yoga, creating a more enjoyable practice.
If you've ever bееn to a yoga class that ended in Om chants, chances are you've used a mantra. Meant as a way tо increase life energy, increase personal power and calm the mind, mantras have bееn used for thousands of years as part of Hindu and Buddhist meditation. There are many mantras throughout Eastern religious texts, but you can make up your own. Thе repetition of the syllables can enhance your meditation by aurally stimulating your chakras and producing vibrations that help stir up your energies.
Thе most famous mantra is Om, the root of all mantras and the primordial vibration manifestation of Brahma. Pronounced correctly, the mouth begins in an open, round shape and gradually closes like an iris to produce the buzzing "mmmm" sound at the end. Thе open "ooohhh" sound sends a vibration into the external space, and the "mmmm" sound retains the vibrations inside. The "ooohhh" sound is usually a single count, while the "mmmm" sound is sustained as long as the breath holds out.
Om is not a shortened version of Om mani padme hum, contrary tо popular belief. Om is an ancient Hindu mantra, while Om mani padme hum is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra associated with the Dalai Lama and popularized in the U.S. during the 1970's. Om mani padme hum is an effective mantra in its own right, used as a chant for compassion, but it is not the root оf аll mantras like the original Om.
Gods and Goddesses
Mantras can also be used tо commune with a particular deity during your meditation session. Both Hindu and Buddhist mantras feature specific chants said tо connect with a particular deity/aspect. Om Namah Shivayah is the chant to Shiva, and Om Namo Narayanaya is the chant fоr Vishnu. All of the major Hindu gods and goddesses have their own mantras, so consult the Lakshmi Tantra, Parasurama Kalpa Sutra and Prapanchasara for specific chants.
Hindus also have longer mantras that are more like prayers. They are chanted in the same monotone, measured voice, but they are directed more specifically toward аn action rather than a deity. Here's an example:
Sarveśām Svastir Bhavatu / Sarveśām Sāntir Bhavatu / Sarveśām Pūrnam Bhavatu / Sarveśām Mangalam Bhavatu
May good befall all, / May there be peace for аll / May all be fit for perfection, / May all experience that which is auspicious.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Buddha is all - simply represented in different aspects rather than entirely separate deities. As such, the salutation-type mantras of Buddhism are all addressed to Buddha, but zone in more specifically on whichever aspect you are hoping to reach. Om wagishwari hum honors Buddha’s wisdom aspect, and the aforementioned Om mani padme hum honors his compassion aspect. There is a mantra for each aspect of Buddha, plus the most important figures in Buddhism, so consult your favorite Buddhist Sutra. Om tare tuttare ture svaha is a chant to the Mother оf Buddhas, and is considered one of the world’s most powerful chants, possessing tremendous purifying and healing properties.
Create Your Own
If established mantras aren’t for you, make up your own. After аll, a mantra can only bе effective if it connects with you on a very basic level. When planning your new mantra, it may be best to play around with sounds until you hit on something that produces vibrations that move you - they don’t necessarily have to be words at all. What matters is the intent and the vibration, because those are the things that affect the chakras.
Don’t make the mistake of turning mantras into wish-fulfillment. Don’t just recite your goals to yourself over and over - that would bе an affirmation, not a mantra. Although affirmations can be useful in building confidence and reinforcing willpower, they won’t have a deeper, more meaningful effect because stringing words together into a sentence rarely creates the textural feel оf the sound necessary to assist meditation.
With over 84,000 poses in yoga to choose from for practice, yoga enthusiasts and practitioners might be left confused on just which ones are the most important. With our daily demands and commitments, most of us might not have the time to perform so many poses, for that reason it’s a good idea to focus on the one that is considered most beneficial for daily practice and that is Savangasana (Shoulderstand). It is one of my favorite inverted poses.
Inverted yoga poses reverse the action of gravity on the body. Instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. On emotional a level Shoulderstand turns everything upside down throwing a new light on old habit patterns of behavior. Shoulderstand improves health, reduces stress and anxiety, increases mental power and also increases self-confidence. In addition, the abdominal organs; liver, spleen, stomach, kidneys and pancreas receive a powerful massage helping them work better.
In Sanskrit, Sarvanga means all parts so as the name suggests, it affects all the bodily organs. It stimulates the thyroid gland, balancing the circulatory, digestive, nervous, reproductive and endocrine systems. It is indeed a panacea, a cure all. Obesity and corpulence are alleviated by this pose as well as constipation and enlargement of the liver and the spleen.
It is best practiced with its counter poses in specific durations for maximal efficiency and when planned correctly, the whole sequence takes less than 6 minutes to practice, depending on your schedule. Personally, I practice this pose daily as part of the Ashtanga primary series placing the most emphasis on this pose for all the benefits stated above.
So next time when you are unsure of which pose you should include in your yoga practice when you are short on time, make it a point to go for the Shoulder-Stand. Your body will thank you for it.
Modifications & Variations
Shoulderstand can bring many benefits to your mind, body, and spirit when practiced regularly and with correct alignment. Be sure to make whatever changes you need to reduce discomfort when practicing it. Here are a few suggestions:
For extra shoulder support, place a folded, firm blanket beneath your shoulders before coming into the pose. Your head and neck should be off the blanket. This extra support can also help prevent neck injury.
Only lift both legs at the same time if your abdominal muscles are strong enough. Do not struggle to lift both legs together. If it is too difficult, lift one leg at a time.
Practice Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani) as a modification for those with neck injuries and for women who are menstruating. *See above picture*
As with all inversions, it’s crucial to ensure you are performing the pose with correct alignment; otherwise, it’s very easy to injure your neck. Be sure to take it slowly and make whatever adjustments you need to reduce discomfort.
Relationships can be the greatest source of happiness--and the greatest source of tension--in your life. Whenever you choose to share your mind, heart, and perhaps your body with another human being, you will encounter expectations, fears, and conflicts. Yet, in a yoga of love, each of these offers you a step towards fulfillment.
Yoga can actually help improve relationship habits and emotional patterns. Relationship concepts are implicit in the art of yoga. Enlightenment usually refers to transcending suffering and desire. In a yoga of relationships, fulfillment may be better described as tapping into the deep, multi-dimensional happiness available to you. In this case, the goal of fulfillment or shared happiness is attained through reactions, shared love, and thoughtfulness.
Are your relationships in a romantic stage, a power struggle, or a crisis? Yoga for two might just be the soul work you need to help you through your struggles, heal your wounds, and set you both on the path of expressing and receiving the love you want to share. Try some partner yoga exercises which use the buddy system to dissolve tension and establish a natural state of harmony in body, mind, emotion, and spirit.
In partner yoga, much attention is given to the importance of intimacy and touch. Touch is seen as a basic human need which, in the modern world, goes largely unsatisfied. Partner yoga offers a system that treats touch and intimacy as integral parts of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
In poses and exercises, partners rely on each other's support to maintain proper body alignment, balance, and concentration. In a deeper sense, this physical support fosters deeper feelings of nurturing, acceptance, and trust. When you feel safe and supported you develop the courage to confront your fears and embrace your true self.
While many consider Yoga to be a form a physical exercise, it is also known to be an exercise in spiritual development. Most would agree that the true “goal” of Yoga is to provide the individual with the means to achieve inner peace and balance. To achieve these goals, students are encouraged to become familiar Yoga’s eight fold path. The eight fold path consists of eight disciplines; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samhadi.
The first fold, Yama, advises students to engage with the world from a moral standpoint, and is actually broken down into five distinct elements. The first element, Ahimsa, teaches the student to respect the world around him. The second, Satya, teaches that one should be honest with themselves and with others. The third, Asteya, teaches not to steal from another. The fourth, Bramacharya, advises against overindulgence of any form. The fifth, Aparigraha, teaches the student to live a simple life that is not distracted by material things.
Niyama, or the second fold, is considered the path of self-restraint and consists of three distinct elements. Shaugh, the first element, teaches students to keep the body and mind clean and pure. Santosh, the second element, teaches the student to be happy and contented with the task at hand and to give an honest effort in all endeavors. Tapa, the third element, suggests that certain pleasures must be given up in order to attain one’s goals.
Asana is the third of the eight fold path, and it is concerned with physical training and building stamina. Asana is made up of 84 yoga poses, which are focused on developing strength, increasing health, and preparing for meditation. This stage is as much about physical conditioning, as it is mental or psychological discipline. Pranayama, the fourth fold, concerns controlled breathing. Proper breathing is important for mastering true relaxation and self-discipline. The proper way to breathe while practicing yoga is to breathe in, and breathe out while pausing in between.
Pratyahara is the fifth of the eight folds, and is concerned with the individual’s control of sensory stimulation. The intent is to induce a sense of inner peace and quiet, by tuning out external stimulation. Dharana is the sixth fold, and it is primarily concerned with focusing one’s concentration on meditation. When a meditative state has been attained the student is then on to the seventh step, Dhyana. The final step, Samhadi, is attained when all previous steps have been completed and the individual experiences a true oneness with all things. The student is, as of this point, in tune with the universal flow.
Inversion poses involve any asanas that lift the feet above the head. Other inversion poses that are well known include shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) and half shoulderstand (viparita karani); but even lying on the floor with your legs up the wall is an inversion pose. The concept behind inversion poses is expressed in yoga texts as viparita karani. Viparita karani is translated as meaning ‘opposite processes. This means facilitating a different perspective. From the purely physical point of view, this different perspective in inversion poses is literal – in terms of looking at the world from a different physical viewpoint – as well as involving the body being supported in a different way.
Yoga is more than simply physical exercises, there are other processes that are assisted. Yoga is designed to help us change mental habits as well as physical habits. Through increasing our ability to adapt to change, instead of being stuck in old habitual responses, we increase our capacity for growth and transformation. This applies in all areas of our lives.
There is a theoretical concept in yoga about why inversion postures help. Ayurveda considers that many of the body’s impurities are in the lower abdomen. When we raise our feet above the head, gravity is assisting us to move these impurities towards what the Ayurvedic system calls agni, or ‘fire’. Agni particularly relates to our ‘digestive fire’, and is thus located above our lower abdomen. So, by being upside down, and by using the deep and slow breathing typical of yoga, we help ‘burn off’ the impurities that were previously stuck. Improved circulation is a more readily apparent and less ‘esoteric’ benefit of inversion yoga poses.
Although inversion postures have many health benefits, the ability to receive those benefits depends as much on one’s capacity to comfortably hold these sometimes difficult postures. For example, headstand and shoulder stand should not be done by women who are pregnant, those who have neck pain, high or low blood pressure, neck injuries, or are menstruating. Neither of these postures should be attempted without the appropriate preparatory postures. Otherwise the risk of injury, or stiffness, particularly to the neck area, will result. Likewise, if doing these postures is uncomfortable or difficult, one should practice the modified versions, or simply work on other yoga poses that strengthen these areas.
Tips for Doing Inverted Postures
For Half Shoulder stand:
* Lengthen the exhale
* don’t lock the chin
* Keep your weight not on the head but on the wrists and elbows
* Don’t try to pull your torso (and legs) vertical like in full shoulder stand if you have difficulties with your neck. By doing so, you’re placing more pressure on your neck.
* Make sure you do the appropriate balancing postures afterwards. These include shalabhasana and bhujangasana
* Don’t worry so much about keeping your elbows and arms parallel. This will create more tension in your neck if you’re not proficient in this posture.
* Do the appropriate balancing postures. These are the same as for half shoulder stand.
* Don’t ever make adjustments whilst in headstand. If you feel your alignment is not quite right, come down and do it again.
* Never do this posture first up, or without the prerequisite postures. It will lead to stiffness in the neck at best, and injury at worst.
This posture is never done traditionally without preparation.
* Use a wall for support as a learning stage
* Support your head with all of your fingers, including the little fingers and thumbs
* Finding the right position for your head will make sure weight is distributed evenly, and ensure you don’t have to overly press down with your elbows to compensate
* Don’t hold your weight too much on the back of your body. It will place too much pressure on your neck.
* Rest your neck before doing the balancing postures, however. Lie down with your legs bent.
* Other balancing postures include chakravakasana, dvipada pitham with the arms, and shalabhasana
There may be fears or a sense of limitation about doing inversion poses that will be confronted. Sometimes, it’s best to start an asana gradually. Most inversion poses offer variations that one can use to build up strength and flexibility, as well as overcome any fear based feelings about the posture and the ability to do it.
*Caution: Do NOT attempt any of these poses if you suffer from neck or shoulder pain/injury. Always seek the advice of your physician prior to beginning any yoga regimen. Remember to practice within your own comfort level as well as, only attempt these poses once you have warmed up.
Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is still the oldest continuously practiced health-care system in the world. Ayurveda focuses on food, lifestyle, massage, yoga and herbal remedies to suit our individual make-up. Ayurveda is holistic, comprehensive and simple to understand, though the science behind it is rich and complex.
The word Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit words; Ayur meaning "life" & Veda meaning "knowledge" or "science." This life science is often described as Yoga’s sister science. It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal routines, diet, behavior, and the proper use of our senses. Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
Body Elements & Constitution (Prakriti)
There are five elements of which the human body is made up of: akasha (ether), Vayu (air), Agni (Fire), Jala (Water) and Prithvi (earth).
Because of the above five elements, all human beings are constituted with a combination of two or three primary ones. These are called Doshas: Kapha, Vata and Pitta. Any person is easy to treat with the identification of his/her category.
Vata category is combination of space and air elements: People are fearful, illogical and insecure. Skin can be dry. They have thin hair. They have dark brown or grey eyes. Vata activates the nervous system, hearing and speech and the persons is a great enthusiast with creativity. However, the state of mind can become easily imbalanced because of insomnia, cramps and constipation.
Pitta category is fire element: These people are achievers, intellectual, fiery, angry, judgmental, with clear voice and precise expression. They have soft and fine hair. Eyes are blue, grey and hazel. They are good leaders and warm personality when healthy. Because of emphasis on metabolism and anger, they may suffer from acidity, ulcers, rashes and thinning of hair.
Kapha category is water and earth element: They have thick lustrous hair. Eyes are blue or brown. People have great endurance capacity with calm and steady mind. They are capable of forgiveness and intense love. Sometimes they are greedy and possessive. Kapha is the lubricant that keeps the joints working, keeps the body vibrant and balanced with immunity. Too much of it leads to lethargy, congestion, allergies and weight gain.
Nature of ailments
After the Prakriti is decided, one should know the nature of the diseases (Vikriti). It is imbalance obviously, but there are two extremes to every imbalance, either deficiency or excess. Those are heavy-light, slow-sharp, cold-hot, unctuous-dry, smooth-rough, solid-liquid, soft-hard, stable-mobile, subtle-gross, and non-slimy-slimy. When corrected, Prakriti or original constitution is restored.
These 20 characteristics with regards to one’s basic constitution will decide the treatment. These may be caused by wrong foods causing improper digestion, wrong sleeping habits, improper mindset, anxiety etc.
The essential way to maintain physical and mental health is by keeping these 5 elements in each dosha in harmonic balance. This can be done through balanced diet, medicinal herbs and healthy life style practices. Imbalances in doshas can lead to various diseases, early aging and compromised immune system. We may be dominated by one or more of these doshas or element. By understanding which dosha type you are proper diet and herbal treatment can be established specifically for you.
Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927. This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a strong body, and a calm mind. This theory of eight different limbs, or components, is also known as “Eight-Limb Yoga”. It doesn’t imply that the practitioner has a double set of limbs, but Sri K. Pattabhi Jois showed that the optimum path of purification is made up of eight spiritual practices.
The basic idea is that these limbs only can be kept in balance by the appropriate application of the Ashtanga Yoga method.
The first four limbs that symbolize Ashtanga Yoga, and are considered externally correctable are (original names within double quotes):
– Moral codes or “yama”
– Self-purification or “niyama”
– Posture or “asana”
– Breath control or “pranayama”
Followed by the other set of limbs which are the internal practices:
– Sense control or “pratyahara”
– Meditation or “dhyana”
– Concentration or “dharana”
– Contemplation or “samadhi”
K. Pattabhi Jois stated that practicing these Eight Limbs, the body will become strong so that it can perform these methods well. If the body is weak, and the sense organs are not functioning well, practicing will not be productive. This is a primary philosophy that K. Pattabhi Jois applied and it is important that the Asthanga practitioner understand this.
Vinsaya and Tristhana in Ashtanga Yoga
Vinsaya is a style that makes Ashtanga and its fundamental principles different from other styles of yoga. Vinsaya basically means the movement and breathing is used effectively together in order to cleanse the body. Each movement is accompanied by only one breath. Sweat is an important product of Vinsaya. When you produce sweat, it indicates that you are successfully applying the method. When you perform the Asanas, or postures, the body produces heat which causes your blood to “boil” and excrete toxins from the body. These toxins are found in your sweat. So the more sweat you produce, the more toxins are released. This is the natural way for the body to rid unwanted substances.
The poses are used to fully develop the physical strength and health of the body. It is the sequence of practice that make this possible. There are three postures used in Ashtanga Yoga.
The three are grouped on different levels:
– The first is the Primary Series which aims on aligning the body and also detoxifying it.
– The second is the Intermediate Series opening and cleansing the energy channels which comes to the process of purifying the Nervous System.
– The last series would be the Advanced Series from A to D. In this set, the grace and strength are assessed.
Tristhana is another yoga principle which symbolizes the close union of the three places of action and attention. First is the posture, second is the breathing technique, and last is the Dristhi (view or gaze/focal point). All these three should work together to perform a function.
The breathing is always controlled and synchronized with the movements in such a way that each movement is accompanied by breath. Ujjayi breathing, a yoga breathing technique; is used in the implementation of Ashtanga Yoga. Applying this ancient technique is something that one must work on gradually in daily practice. This is an amazing breathing exercise that will intensify the internal fire and help the nervous system.
Both Ashtanga and Tristhana deal with the series of Dristhi. This allows your mind to be purified and stabilized clearly. Clearing your mind (sometimes compared to an active monkey) and cleansing it is the ultimate goal in the Eight-Limb Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.
If you’ve ever practiced any type of Vinyasa yoga such as Ashtanga, then chances are you’ve heard the word ujjayi breathing. What is ujjayi breathing and why is there such emphasis placed on moving with the breath in yoga practice? Ujjayi (translated from Sanskrit as victorious), is an ancient yogic breathing technique that helps calm the mind and body. Since the breath is our life energy (prana), the in- and out-breath is what nourishes and cleanses the body and mind. The quality of the breath tells us something about our physical and emotional state – whether we are relaxed, tense, stressed or balanced.
How to Practice Ujjayi Breathing
1. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale out your mouth. When you breathe out of your mouth, imagine you are trying to fog up a mirror. Use the whisper muscles in the back of your throat to make a deep “haaa” sound.
2. Continue Step 1 but now when you exhale, close your mouth half way through the exhale. The first half of the exhale will leave through your mouth and the second half of the exhale will leave through your nose. As the exhale transitions to your nose, try to keep the whisper muscles in your throat activated. Imagine you’re fogging up a mirror with the breath from your nose.
3. Keep your mouth closed the entire time as you continue to breathe in and out through your nose with the throat muscles constricted. Usually, it is easier to make the “Darth Vader” sound on the exhale, but overtime you will be able to make the sound with equal volume on the inhale. When first learning Ujjayi, don’t worry if your breath sounds forced or even silent. With practice, your Ujjayi breath will start to sound like the waves in the ocean.
“If you are running at a certain pace, there is a tendency to open your mouth because breathing through your nostrils may not be sufficient. But you never ever breathe through your mouth during asanas. This is not an aerobic exercise – asanas are about building internal strength of the organs and the whole system”. ~ Sadhguru
Once Ujjayi breathing is learned in a seated position (such as easy pose), the next step is to retain the same quality of breathing throughout your asana practice. During your practice, try to keep the same length and evenness of the breath in and out (through the nose) as much as possible. Once you find your Ujjayi breath in a pose you feel comfortable with, try to maintain that same quality of breathing throughout your yoga practice. While controlling the breath we can control the mind and this is a very important part of yoga practice. Overall peace in the body can come only when the mind is calm and stable.
Caution: When practicing Ujjayi breathing, be careful not to tighten your throat. Do not attempt this breathing exercise if you have a respiratory condition, like asthma or emphysema. Stop if you become faint or dizzy. Remember to always work within your own range and abilities. If you have any medical conditions, talk with your doctor first before beginning any yoga practice.
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