Breathing, Communication and Letting Go
Heavy sigh. A release. The body calms for a moment and the mind empties.
Our breath is one way we communicate with our body and mind. Our emotions and the physical self are preempted by breath. If we breathe shallow, not allowing enough oxygen to actually connect with our movements we become sluggish and weak. Our thought process slows, our muscles do not benefit from proper oxygenated blood flow.
In the practice of yoga we engage in Ujjayi breath. Ujjayi means “Victory”. It is the internal sigh at the back of the throat that we draw deep down into our solar plexus stoking the fires of prana (energy). Ujjayi is used throughout the entire Ashtanga practice and usually used only intermittently during a ‘regular’ yoga class.
My very first yoga instructor stressed the importance of breath work and how the mind and body would respond to long, slow deep breathing. He encouraged Ujjayi breath to carry out the old, used stale air to be followed by rampant thoughts and feelings. Inhaling, new clean fresh air to purify the mind and the body.
With focus on Ujjayi breath, we allow the sound of the internal sigh to fill our head, not allowing random thoughts to invade and take over. Following the breath, our mind becomes still and we can get a better perspective on the posture we are working with. And with a longer breath we can also move deeper into the posture.
Breathing can be a way of communication with the body. I often instruct my students to breath into a tired, sore or stiff muscle. “Allow the breath to internally massage the muscle”.
The more we breathe into a posture we can also experience a sense of letting go. That is after we unclench our jaw and relax the muscles we are working. Relax the muscle? Yes, relax in deed. The muscle can be active and still relax. It’s this relaxation that can allow us to experience a lengthening when we are holding a posture.
In lengthening a muscle we are allowing the muscle to release its tension. Releasing musculature tension also allows the mind and emotions to relax. I believe the more we allow ourselves to release, the stronger we become. Our mind and body work more efficiently when we are in a clear relaxed state.