You may have heard in a Scholé Yoga class that the practice of yoga begins with breath awareness. Each breath we breathe mindfully brings us back to the present moment, and slow, deep breathing can help to calm and cool our nervous systems. In yoga, posture and movement are secondary to the focus on the breath we create as a foundation for practice.
Here are the most common breathing techniques you will find in a Scholé class:
- Anapana (nostril breathing)
- Ujjayi (forceful, Ashtanga Yoga breathing)
- Sama Vritti Pranayama (equal breath breathing)
Anapana Yoga Breathing
In every Scholé Yoga class, you will be encouraged to practice Anapana, which is watching the in-and-out breath, often referred to as nostril breathing. This is the same mindfulness practice and technique of the Buddha. In this practice you, simply observe your natural breaths and continually bringing your focus back to the space, or tiny patch of skin under your nose and above your upper lip.
Ujjayi Ashtanga Yoga Breathing
Ujjayi breath is taken from Scholé Yoga’s Ashtanga roots (read more about that on our blog). Cued at certain times or style of practice a Scholé teacher might explain Ujjayi breath as a forceful, fast breath, in and out the nose. With the mouth closed and a slight constriction in the throat Ujjayi breath will make a sound, sometimes described as ocean waves or Darth Vader breath.
To try it, take a deep inhale through your nose and let it out your mouth as though you were fogging up a mirror, then do the same inhale and exhale but keep your mouth closed. Do you hear it? Now shorten the breaths to 1-3 seconds while keeping your belly button pulled in, and up. This breath is designed to warm up the body, build heat and fire from within. Try it out during your next Scholé Yoga class, especially when you are moving in and out of postures quickly!
Sama Vritti Pranayama
Not as often cued in class, but still an important Scholé breathing technique, is Sama Vritti Pranayama or equal breathing. Each inhale and exhale are equal, bringing in your inhale while counting to five, for example, then exhaling 5,4,3,2,1. Your count will depend on how long it takes you to completely fill up with air and let it go, so it may be longer or shorter than slowly counting to five. After some practice, you can continue with counting or begin to let that go, but still breathe in equal parts.
Breathing deeply, especially like this, activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body and mind to reduce stress and anxiety. It's a great technique for the final few grounding postures near the end of class, or anytime and anywhere you feel stressed, overwhelmed or just need a quiet few moments of calm.