Take heart. Breathe deep.

You are further along than you think. – Morgan Harper Nichols

I didn’t know about the importance of the breath till I started YTT. The deeper understanding I gained about the breath helped me improve my focus in asanas, and hence hold poses for a longer time or flow more easily in sequences. Paying attention to the breath helps to stop me from thinking of other things off the mat (distractions). Exhale when you move to bring it closer to your centre/core, and inhale when you bring it away from the centre/core. For example, from downward dog, inhale to lift 1 leg up and exhale to crunch in and bring it to your nose.

Another way the breath helps is in the expansion of prana – our life force energy (pranayama). There are different ways pranayama can help, listing a few here:

  1. Cool down the body heat –
    1. Sitkari-h and Sitali-h: only exhale using your left nostril
      1. Sitkari-h: roll tongue behind teeth, hissing
      2. Sitali-h: roll tongue outside of mouth
    2. Energise and relax –
      1. Anuloma viloma

This controls the levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body.

  1. To energise and get more serotonin: Start inhalation and end exhalation on right side
    i.e. inhale through right nostril for 1 count, hold your breath for 3 counts, exhale through your left nostril for 2 counts.
    Inhale through left nostril for 1 count, hold your breath for 3 counts, exhale through your right nostril for 2 counts.
  2. To relax and get more melatonin: Start inhalation and end exhalation on left side
    1. Nadi shodan
      This is the same as anuloma viloma but without holding of breath i.e. inhale 1 count, exhale 2 breaths. You can practice this first before moving onto anuloma viloma if you find anuloma viloma difficult to start with.

For both the above, you can perform it with Vishnu mudra on your right hand and chin/gyanamudra on the left.

  1. Cleansing of thoughts –
    1. Kapalabathi (skull shining breath) – this mainly uses belly breathing.
      1. Sit comfortably in cross legged position.
      2. Inhale and start – these are quick, forceful exhalations which draw the belly in toward the spine. When you inhale, relax your belly.

Lastly, when I connect to the breath, I generally feel calmer and more relaxed. This lets me be at peace with the current situation and myself. Always give thanks to where you are at now and the progress you have achieved. Take heart, breathe deep. You are further along than you think. 😊