One of the hallmarks of classical yoga practice is a use of ujjaye pranayama – wave motion breathing. Ujjaye breathing and developing breathing exercise into pranayama enlivens our life-force. In asana practice there are three fundamental rules for the breath patterns.
1. Inhalation occurs as you extend the spine and exhalation occurs when you release tension in your body and relax.
When practicing yoga, our rhythmic breathing is harmonized to be at the pace with body motions. For example, starting with Tadasana (standing position), we lift our arm up and we inhale during this motion. The inhalation will be complete when the arms reach full shoulder flexion, with fingertips aimed at the ceiling. Similarly, when we exhale and we lower our arms to our sides and we slowly run out of breath when our arms touch our sides.
2. Inhale when you move to center or become erect and exhale when moving away from centered position.
It’s important that we are aware of motion and breathing patter and that we know when we are moving slowly into forward – bending position we extend ourselves, lightening our spine with each inhalation. We move forward with each exhalation.
3. Our breath awareness is constant, even when our body is stationary.
When we hold an asana (position) our attention should remain on the internal wavelike flow of ujjaye breathing. Our intention is to deepen physical pose by continually going into a wider range of motion.
Yoga regulates all four parts of the breath: the two motions (inhale, exhale) and the pauses that naturally follow the motions. Pauses are natural, provided there is no stress or any fixed attention. The natural rhythm is altered and the breath will be shallower and the pauses longer. Upon closer examination, you will notice, that the breath is not held nor does it stop.
While practicing yoga, is important that you are aware that when you inhale, you are going into the pose and opposite, you exhale when you are releasing the pose. When this method is repeated for up to six times it is optimal for slowing down your mind, deepening your breath and developing pranic energy. With classical yoga practice we usually stay in the pose for 2 to 3 breaths. With ashtanga yoga practice (physically more intense yoga practice) one motion is one breath (inhale or exhale).
Breathing pattern to stay in a pose for 2 to 3 breaths is useful for training concentration (dhyana) and integrating pranayama ratios into asana. It is very beneficial for improving your memory, gently strengthening your lungs with regular practice and it’s recommended for people with scoliosis. With holding a pose for 2 to 3 breaths, and repeating this method it helps our body at eliminating stress and hypertension. With yoga practice we can also extend our breathing and stay in the posture for 12 breaths. This is recommended for optimizing the effects of muscular strength or flexibility, especially when we would like to eliminate specific muscular and postural imbalances. Staying in pose for 12 breaths will help us develop optimal stamina in the shortest possible period of time. It is recommended to begin by holding the pose with good alignment and steadiness at a lesser number of breaths, then increase the holding time by 2 to 3 breaths. Per week. When you can hold posture comfortably and steadily for 12 breaths for two weeks consistently you can move on to the next level of challenge.
A fascinating view of breathing is obtained by watching those who are healthy and contrasting your finding with those who are unhealthy. For example, when you watch an infant sleeping, it is very easy to determine that it breaths using primarily the diaphragm by watching the abdomen rise and fall. There was a survey done in hospital by two scientist who were interested about respiratory patterns of heart-attack patients. They did the observation how these patients were breathing. Survey was done on 153 patients with heart-attack and they found out, that approximately 75% of all patients were chronic mouth breathers and 70 percent of these also exhibited open-mouth snoring. The authors of survey suggested, that it may be, that teaching the patient simple diaphragmatic breathing should be an integral pattern of the treatment process. Altering the thoracic pattern to diaphragmatic breathing could increase the efficiency of ventilation /perfusion, resulting in a decrease in the amount of work required by the cardio-pulmonary system. This could help reduce the strain on the heart.
The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar can become the great high point of your morning practice. Sun Salutation is a beautiful sequence that can teach you to coordinate rhythmic breathing with body postures into a flowing routine. This suffices as a complete program when done for 15 to 20 minutes continuously. Surya Namaskar literally translated means “beautiful light, you are my own self”. Surya is one of the twelve mantra names for the Sun. In the traditional yoga practice of Sun Salutation, Sun is honored during the period of rising and setting, so that its energies can be taken in through the medium of mantra and pranayama – energetic breathing.
Precautions about which we all need to be aware of; if you have a bad back, be careful during exercise. When practicing bending poses you need to bend your knees. Cobra pose is safest if done without the use of your arm strength. It is also important, that If you notice stiffness in your wrists, do not bear weight on your flat hands, but do rather use your fingertips or knuckles.
The Sun Salutation is the most beneficial of the traditional yoga sequences. It may be done slowly and gently for meditative inner focus. It can also be done more vigorously over a 10 to 20 minutes period for an aerobic effect to strengthen your cardio vascular system. Sun Salutation poses can also be sustained or developing muscular stamina. The Sun Salutation is the most widely known series of yoga poses and all yoga teachers present it in some variation.
The Sun Salutation is a very powerful sequence of postures, which both strengthens and extend the long muscles of the front and back of the body. This is a unique sequence that it can stand alone, without the need for other practice to maintained health. It can increase hip and spinal flexibility with practice. This is remarkable routine, because it energize the body to the point that this is all you need to do to maintain optimal physical health.