If you are anything like me, when I was starting out with my Yoga practice I just didn’t ‘get’ the benefits of the breath. The teacher would be telling me to focus on my breath and I’d be all ‘blah blah blah’, and start thinking about the veggie lasagne waiting for me at home or start picking at my chipped nail polish (I know, I know.. gross habit).
Pranayama can seem daunting, and frankly, a load of woowoo to those first starting out in Yoga. So what exactly are the benefits of Pranayama and how can you start to practice the infamous Ujjayi breath (Victorious breath) in your class.
Breaking it down, Prana means Life force/energy/qi or chi.‘Yama’ is control, so essentially Pranayama is the control and lengthening of the breath and energy throughout the body. Using our breath as as focus in our practice can give us the following benefits.
Top 5 benefits of Pranayama
1.Yoga is all about the internal focus and focusing on your breath encourages you to simply be. As many yoga teachers often say, practicing Yoga without the breath is simply series of gymnastics postures. It is the breath that allows us to focus, gaze internally, bring mindfulness and a meditative aspect to our practice.
2. Pranayama can be calming and energising depending on what our nervous system needs. I enjoy practicing Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) both in the morning and afternoons for an energy boost and right before bed to help calm my mind for a good night of shut eye.
3. In Yoga, we are aiming for that balance between Sthira (effort and strength) and Sukha (ease, sweetness) our breath can help to decrease the tension in our muscles to softly ease our way into postures bringing the Sukha into our practice.
4. Focusing on our breath can help to keep us in postures for a longer period of time and helps with endurance. Kind of like childbirth where the woman is encouraged to breathe! (ok maybe not that intense…)
5. The breath and in particular the Ujjayi breath can help to heat the body from the inside out, energising the internal organs and creating ‘Tapas’ the inner fire to protect our bodies in the stronger poses. The breath allows us to move in and out of each posture safely with body awareness. The breath creates a natural rhythm in our flow classes in particular when we use the breath to flow through our sequence of postures.
Top 5 Tips for starting out with Ujjayi
Breathe in… breathe out..
Written by Polly Wilson.
The Yoga Social Team