Teacher Training: Pranayama, Following Our Breath.

These days, when people hear the word “yoga,” they immediately think about wearing tight black pants, going to a studio, and exercising on a mat, but, for centuries, yoga referred to a way of life that centered around meditation in a quest for enlightenment. When enlightened, we don’t crave and we don’t attach. Instead, we are calm and accepting of reality and, at the same time, we are also aware of peace in the universe that surrounds the physical reality of this world.

But how do we get there? It is why we study all the limbs (astanga) of yoga in our Teacher Training class, and one of them is pranayama or breath control. In Sanskrit, prana means “life force” or “energy” and only part of that meaning is “breath,” while yama is restraint or rule. When yogis say pranayama, they usually mean “breath work.”

The idea is that by becoming aware of your breathing, you can calm and focus your mind and your thinking. During our first class as teacher trainees, Jess, our teacher, taught us some variations of pranayama. She asked us to practice and keep a journal about conscious breathing.

Coming from a long line of panic attack sufferers, I have used ujjayi breathing as a practice to move past my anxiety. Ujjayi breath is the one that sounds like the ocean and/or Darth Vader, depending on your perception of it. Personally, I think that pranayama works on two levels. First, if you’re focusing on your breath, you can’t think about how your butt looks in leggings or how much your wrists hurt in Adho Mukha Savasana. Second, the long, slow breaths stabilize both your heart rate and your blood pressure.

I feel grateful that Honor Yoga’s teacher training puts such an emphasis on pranayama because breath awareness is one of the strongest foundation blocks of our yoga practice, leading to a more beneficial asana practice and more peaceful meditation practice.

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