By Faye Martins
Proper breath awareness is the foundation for asana and meditation in yoga training. Proper breathing is such a fundamental part of every yoga class. Yet, some yoga instructors fail to mention the importance of breath awareness. You must be aware of your breathing before meditating. Simple breath awareness is one of the simplest forms of meditation, but it is also one of the most significant. It is best practiced lying on your back with your legs straight or bent. As you improve, you may be able to practice it while sitting or standing. It is just as important to keep good posture during asana practice as it is during meditation practice.
As you observe your breathing, it will become refined and you will achieve perfect breathing over time. You should not consciously alter your breathing as this will cause anxiety and tension which is the opposite of what you want to accomplish.
As many of you have already learned in yoga teacher training, once you are comfortable with simple breath awareness, you will begin to use your lungs to their fullest capacity in a relatively short period of time. Your lungs will then begin to expand, growing new tissue, which will give you more lung capacity which will be achieved over a long period of time.
Practicing with Ujjayi
Ujjayi pranayama is achieved by partially closing the epiglottis at the back of the throat. This partially restricts air flow and causes a hissing noise in the back of the throat as you breathe in and out. This is normally how many people breathe when they fall asleep. As you practice this breathing technique, you will be able to do this easily.
Ujjayi breathing allows you to listen to your breath helping your mind to focus on your breath and helps to enhance meditation. This breathing technique can be used with almost any other breathing technique as long as they do not involve forceful breathing.
Tension in Swadhisthana Chakra is one of the more difficult breathing exercises to produce, but once you experience this breathing technique it is much easier to perform. The Swadhisthana Chakra is the center of gravity within the body, it is just a few inches below the navel and believed by some to be one the seats of spiritual power within the human body.
Tension is created by putting diaphragm and abdominal muscles in isometric resistance. As you inhale, you make the diaphragm work harder and when exhaling, you make the abdominal muscles work harder. The diaphragm and abdominals are never in a completely relaxed state, and therefore, this keeps tension between them. Once you learn this technique, you can experiment by holding a little more or less tension until you find what works best for you.
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