Monday, July 11, 2011

The breath......

The three most observed breathing mistakes in Ashtanga yoga:
1. Not do practice uddjay breathing at all.
2. The exhaling is much much longer than the inhaling.
3. The breath changes when the limits in an asana are reached. Either the yogini stops breathing at all, some moan other switch to a much longer exhaling again.

Remarks to number 1: 
This is so in the beginning that the yogini forgets the breath. There is so much more to remember like the sequence itself, how to perform an asana and and and........In the very beginning it might even be difficult to breath in a way that it can be heard. The tip: remember the breath again and again. After years of practicing it might be possible  to listen to the breath during one session. Ashtanga yoga is a concentration exercise. The sound of the breath reminds me of the waves of the ocean. No music is so nice than the even rhythm of my breath when I practice Ashtanga yoga.

Remarks to number 2:
I've been there. I could here my exhaling, I was sure that also my neighbor yogini could here it and I was proud of it. I didn't realize that my inhaling was much shorter. Much much shorter. My first Ashtanga yoga teacher draw my attention to it. I was amazed. It was true. I corrected the length. Years later I got again the feed back that my exhaling is still a bit longer than my exhaling. I had to measure it and it was true. Please take a watch and do this little exercise. It's enlightening.
The effort shall be to have an even long inhaling. It's good if it becomes longer over time. It's needed to have a long inhaling. When I want to come up from laghu vajrasana or urdhva dhanurasana being able to have a long inhaling  is very supportive.
The exhaling has to adjust to the inhaling. It's much much easier to prolong the exhaling. I used to think: Inhaling is active, exhaling is passive. Let go, I thought when I exhaled. But I realized it has to be an active letting go, not a passive letting go. It's as if I've to press the air out of the lungs. To press is perhaps a word which is a bit too strong, but yeah it's not only letting it out. Then the breath becomes too long. Relatively fast the air has to leave the lungs.
To exercise this in a sitting position is very good. Take a clock to measure the breath.
Nevertheless the challenges come when the body is bent back i.e.. The pressure on the chest makes it difficult to inhale. This is the breathing work one has to do, to breath deeply despite this pressure. This opens the chest and makes fearless. :)

Remarks to number 3:
The even rhythm shall also be continued when it gets difficult, when the limits are reached, when the stretching discomfort is felt when practicing asanas. My favorite mistake here is to stop breathing, or to have a weak inhaling.

The breath has many aspects. Have a closer look at your breathing.

When I watch Youtube videos, I breathe with the yogi/yogini whom I watch. Quickly I realize at which level the student is. Being able to perform an asana is one criteria, the breath is another one.

Laghu vajrasana is on the picture: The vinyasa of this asana is more challenging than the pose itself. It's important to get down controlled. Strong legs are needed for that. To come up even stronger legs are necessary and tecnhnique. But this is the topic of tomorrow.


Ashley Arnold said...

So glad you posted about this! Breath is so pivotal and a lot of yogis do stop breathing or pant when breathing. I took a pranayama/bandha workshop and it completely changed my practice. My breath flows with my movement and my practice is stronger. :)

Ursula said...

So true.

The breath is an interesting topic, it has so many aspects.
Important is, it's not something in addition that makes the practice even more complex and difficult. Correct breathing supports performing the asanas and vinyasas. :)

Marge S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marge S said...

You are right! I just came back from the beach and the breath sounds exactly like the ocean--at night, when everything else is quiet and you can only hear the waves. I might add I make mistake #1, but I'm still a beginner so perhaps I have an excuse...