If you’re serious about your practice you need to get serious about your breathing too.
So everything’s going great with your yoga practice and you’re even confident enough now to have allowed yourself that first Instagram humblebrag – probably a wheel pose with sunset backdrop. You feel totally at ease on the mat, have no problem connecting with your heart centre and have even realized that savasana is not Sanskrit for ‘nap time'.
Then your teacher asks you to utilise your ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai). “But I didn’t bring my Ujjayi today,” you think, rather panicked. It must still be at home on the kitchen table. You look around at the class and no one else appears to be utilising it either. Maybe they all forgot to bring it too. However, look closer and you might see that every one is now breathing through their nose, this is ujjayi, otherwise known as victorious breath, and yogis use it to help a class through some of the more demanding disciplines like ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga. Put it this way, if your breathing resembles Darth Vader’s, you must be doing something right.
Now, at this point many men question the validity of learning how to breathe. After all, you might think that you know how to breathe. You’ve been doing it all your life. Blokes like a challenge but where’s the difficulty in blowing in and out. Why should we take that seriously? Well, think of it this way, you don’t ignore your PT when they tell you to exhale on the upward phase of a lift when you’re on the bench at the gym because they know that it will mean that you will get more out of the lift. So why would you ignore your yoga teacher when they tell you that focusing on your breath will not only help you achieve different poses but will get you there under control and with less chance of injury.
Forget fallen angel pose, Pranayama, or breath control, is one of the hardest things for guys to master and you’re eventually going to have to relearn the most essential and natural of body processes.
And Ujjayi isn’t the only breathing method that you will come across. Sama Vritti, “equal breathing” matches equal-length inhales with equal-length exhales.
We’re all accustomed to hearing our breathing when we’re blowing hard around a football pitch or are out for a run but in the quiet calm of a yoga class listening to your breathing can tell you so much about your practice, turning something that we do unconsciously into a more conscious act.
Think you’re ready to take your yoga to the next level. Great, just don’t hold your breath.
This article was written for Warrior Addict by Jon Axworthy.
We would like to give credit to The Happy Yogi and Time Out for images used in this article.