Breathing is everything in yoga. It can get you through a difficult pose, quiet your mind by offering something to focus on, all the while, supplying your muscles with some much needed oxygen.
At Power Yoga Canada you are taught to use Ujjayi breathing. It is sometimes referred to as “Ocean Breath” because of the sound it makes on both the inhalation and exhalation (I love that!). And there is nothing better than finding yourself surrounded by a bunch of yogi’s that are relying on their breath to raise their own practice to new heights! For me, the sound is like the rise and fall of ocean waves crashing on the beach (my favorite place to be in the world, so thanks for that visual!!!) The collective breath of the group really seems to bolster you when you are at your edge. It is like a bunch of tiny little hands that hold you up while the sound is cheering you on to stay right in the posture you need the most.
Ujjayi breathing fills the lower belly first which can activate the first and second chakras. It then rises to the lower rib cage turning on the third and fourth chakras. Finally it moves into the upper chest and throat. I also learned that Ujjayi comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “to be victorious”. How amazing is that!? And Ujjayi Breath mean the victorious breath. I don’t know about you, but I will definitely remember that the next time I think “I can’t”. This type of breathing also eliminates toxins, provides energy for your practice and gives you a little sound track to flow along with. The breath keeps you moving through your postures and is actually thought to regulate your blood pressure!
Utilizing this breath off your mats is one of the best gifts yoga can give you. Remembering your breath throughout your day will keep you centered and focused on the present moment. It can help you through pain (those of you that suffer from migraines, know what I am talking about). An intentional breath increases oxygen and regulates your heart rate, both of which can beat the heck out of some anxious feelings and keep a potential panic attack at bay!
I love when the instructors at PYC remind us to breathe for ourselves and then breathe for our neighbour. It’s like that permission to do something for another person allows us to focus on something bigger than ourselves and get our own poses grounded and strong. I am committing to “breathing for my neighbour” outside of the yoga studio as well! I love using it (quietly) in a tough/emotional meeting or when I feel a co-worker is having “one of those days” I even like to use it as a secret weapon on my kids when they don’t want to get out of bed (the big ones) or go to bed (the little one). It is a great way to pass on a little support to the people in our lives, without them even knowing!
Next time you are on your mat, enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean and take that with you for the rest of your day!