Sometimes it’s like I have a whole bunch of Hare Krishnas in my head. The dancing, the tambourines, the singing, and, man oh man, all that clapping.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Hare Krishnas, and the noise in my head is often there for a reason - the creativity, the conversations with myself, the daydreams...but sometimes I just want to turn that volume knob right down and create a little bit of space between all that noise and find peace in the chaos.
IMAGINE!!!… does that ever happen not in a photoshoot?
Away from distractions we can all stop and just….take a breath.
But life’s not like that …life is messy. There are irritations, there’s traffic,
there’s people who sit WAAAAYYYY below the speed limit.
There are misunderstandings and confrontations.
Our physiological reaction to stress is the same if we are sitting in traffic or we are holding a pose for 20 breaths –
our heart races, our breath shortens or worse, we hold , and we start to sweat.
This creates tension in the body, and more than a little fuzziness in the head.
In every moment we are in a cycle of breath, which provides vital oxygen to our body.
...but what if we could use the breath for so much more?
The breath is one of the simplest things in the world.
We breath out, we breath in.
But in changing the breath from an unconscious to a conscious state we have the ability to help ourselves through the stresses of our harried life. Our breath directly links to our nervous system and the use of calm, controlled breathing can take us from being in our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (fight or flight) to our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) (rest and renew).
The breathing practices in yoga are known as Pranayama, where we manipulate the breath, in part, to soothe, to revitalize, and to tame. Breathwork also serves as the bridge between the physical practice (asana) and the inner surrendering (meditation).
One such practice is affectionately known as Darth Vader breath.
For the yogis, it is called Ujjayi.
Used extensively in Vinyasa style practices, there re a few really fab things about using this breath:
- the deep, rhythmic breath gives us an anchor when life has gone pear shaped
- the sound of the breath becomes louder than the monkey in our head
- it wraps our nervous system in the breath version of a cashmere blanket
In breathing fully, deeply, we focus the mind, soothe our adrenals and we switch form REACTING to a situation to RESPONDING instead.
This is not a cure-all. There is no such thing.
But breathing is one of the tools we have at our disposal…and its FREE… no paying big bucks to anyone…
and you can do it yourself…– which means you can help yourself.
And I’m very much into that.
And it’s not just for yoga, it is for our off the mat life too...And I’m very much into that too.
Here is a quick and simple how to, to get you started.
(There are many ways to teach it…this is my version. Just remember that Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, engaging the use of the lower belly muscles to help the diaphragm control the length of the inhale and the exhale.
The Darth Vader ‘noise’ is created in the throat.)
Inhale deeply through the nose, feeling as though you are taking the breath down to the bottom of your belly.
Feel the belly rise, and the ribs expand
Then exhale fully with an open mouth, sighing for the full length of the exhale taking note of the feeling in the throat as you do this, and the role of the lower belly
Do this 3 or 4 times
Then close the lips but continue to make the sound
The inhalations and exhalations should be of equal length, and in doing this practice, just check that your shoulders, neck, jaw and face remain ‘soft’ and relaxed
I usually begin just with the Ujjayi on the exhale, moving to the inhale when you feel comfortable.
Or turn it on whenever life is pushing THOSE buttons and you need a little moment….so you don’t have a little moment.
And at the end of that practice we find that in a few short minutes, and without having to open our wallets, or sit in a cave, we have been on a little mental holiday, yet our physical body is feeling pretty good too.
We find the quality of the stillness within, is delicious and deep, and we learn to rediscover our own rhythm rather that letting ourselves be dictated to by external forces
Give this simple technique a go, and...
“May the Force Be With You”