Learning to Breathe (Yoga Challenge: Day 28)

Just a quick one today because it is quite simple.

It all has to do with wishing I had learned something about yoga well before I started the asanas (postures). I was reminded today by a fellow student that was most likely completely unaware of her frantic breath. Now, I have been there before and still fall in to it from time to time. Once I realize it, I can get into Child’s Pose to bring my breath back into rhythm again.

It was a welcome reminder of the importance of breathing through the nose in yoga and filling the lungs and ribcage 360 degrees. Without hearing it from another student, I don’t think I would have come to recognize it so strongly in myself.

Lesson from Day 28

I learned how to breathe in yoga, in this case using the Ujjayi Pranayama, well after I started practising. Now I feel that learning to control the breath should almost be a pre-requisite before actually moving into any postures.  There are many types of breathing patterns or techniques one can use in yoga. Without a deep understanding of these, however, our breath in our asanas becomes laboured and short (and rather frustrating). Sometimes you might as well be trapped under a vehicle. This is not yoga.

So, I encourage you, if you ever feel panicked in your breathing in class, attend a Pranayama workshop or spend some time at home working on your breathing, even just for 10 minutes. I’m no expert, but I also recommend attending a Level 1 Ashtanga Class if you haven’t before. For reasons I have mentioned before, Ashtanga will help you focus on your breath while you move into the postures.

I promise it will elevate your practise hugely.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.


Finding Aliveness in Our Breath (Yoga Challenge: Day 19)

Have you ever noticed the moment at the end of an exhale before you inhale again?

Today our instructor brought our attention to not only our breath, but the space between breaths. For most of the day, we don’t think about our breathing. It just happens, like blinking and swallowing. But, our breathing is our lifeline – a sure sign that all vital signs are alive and well. Have you ever stopped to think about what this means?

Without the next inhale, we are done. Dead. Kaput.

The line between this life and the next one is as delicate as that.

In yoga, we stop to focus on our breathing and by doing so, we acknowledge our own, mortal existence. Try it: exhale all your breath and in the space at the bottom of your breath, focus on the few moments that you can get away without inhaling. Eventually you will have to breathe in again, but hang out in that space between the exhale and the inhale. What happens?

I find I become completely focused on my presence, my “aliveness” in those very moments. And I must be fully present in order to resist the body’s natural urge to breathe in again.

How might you live your life differently if you were more aware of how miraculous it is that you’re alive in the first place? How would this affect your practise?

Lesson from Day 19

With Ujjayi breathing, we are voluntarily controlling our breath, matching our in-breath with the out-breath. But there is still that space at the bottom and top of each breath, like the silence and nothingness between musical notes in a melody. In those short few moments we can find some stillness. And if we are really moving with our breath, we can find new power with every inhale.

Imagine how your practise will change if you consider that each breath in brings you this expansive power.


I’d love to hear what you have to say, what you’ve gotten out of these posts, and for those of you doing the yoga challenge as well, how the challenge is going for you! Feel free to comment below, post a comment on Facebook, send me a message through Twitter or send me an email.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.