I'm sitting here typing this 30 minutes before heading on-stage to speak at a conference for women entrepreneurs. And guess what? My most successful technique for calming my nerves comes from yoga practice, specifically engaging my Ujjayi breathing. Many of you have heard me say things in class like, "Begin your Ujjayi breathing, soothing yourself by making the sound of the ocean at the back of your throat." But what IS Ujjayi breathing? It can be somewhat elusive until you find your "Ujjayi voice" -- and that just takes a little practice.
For starters, WHY breathe this way? Ujjayi Pranayama (pranayama means life-force breathing -- more on that later) is a balancing and cleansing breath. It warms the entire body by increasing oxygenation and body-heat. It is centering in the focus it requires: when you are focusing on the three-part breath (belly, upper chest, throat) AND on the sound of engaging your glottis muscles at the back of your throught, your monkey-mind has a harder time interfering with your practice.
So how can you learn and practice Ujjayi breathing? Start right now, while you're reading this email. Close your eyes so that you can turn inward and really hear your breath (though you'll have to read the rest of these instructions first!). Start with an inhale through the nose, then a loud, even exhale as though you're trying to fog a mirror for 5 whole seconds. On the way in, you still engage the back of your thoat, but this time almost like you are snoring. Repeat, this time with your mouth closed for both the inhale and the exhale (this keeps the prana circulating in your body).
How does this tie into yoga practice? Vinyasa Flow classes are all about linking breath with movement. Although it is challenging to keep up with Ujjayi breathing for the entire class, see if you can bring yourself back to it every time you remember, particularly in challenging poses where you can really benefit from the calming, centering, stabilizing breath. You can also practice when you find yourself emotional, nervous, or even just waiting in line at the grocery store.
Until next time, and hope to see you on Thursday at Katonah! ::::loud, sighing AHHHHHHH:::: :)