Legendary sage Maharishi Patanjali is the generally recognized founder of yoga philosophy. His mother Gonnika, prayed to Lord Vishnu, the god who maintains the universe, for a child. Gonnika named her baby boy, Patanjali. Pat means “descended from heaven”, and Anjali, is the word for a praying posture.
Historians date Patanjali’s life back two centuries before the birth of Christ. Patanjali, devoted his life to the elaboration of the principles of yoga for the benefit of humanity. In his work, the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali’s established the goal of yoga as total freedom from suffering. His devotion lead to his creation of what is known as the eight (8) branches of yoga. Each of these limbs of yoga helps you shift your inner reference/focus point from the “tunnel vision”, restricted to the expanded, unlimited consciousness. As you move from the restricted
Awareness to unrestricted awareness, your inner focus transforms from egocentric to spirit. This spiritual, open awareness enables you to see the “bigger picture” from all angles when facing any challenge, in any part of your life.
The 8 branches of yoga are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi. Pranayama is the 4th Branch of Yoga . Prana = Life Force, Vital Energy. When Prana is flowing freely throughout your mind/body, you will feel healthy & vibrant. When Prana is blocked/restricted, fatigue and disease will follow. According to Patanjali, conscious breathing techniques or Pranayama, is a key way to enliven Parana.
Pranayama, means mastering the life force (Prana). There exists a direct relationship between your breath and your mind. When your mind is calm, centered, quiet your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in a state of relaxation and so is your breathing. When your mind is anxious, stressed, “chattering”, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (which is our nervous system’s ‘flight or fight’ mode) is operating above your PNS. This will create disordered, shallow breathing. Breath is affected by our mental activity, and your mind can be influenced by conscious regulation of your breathing. Pranayama is a powerful ‘tool’ to enhance this neuro respiratory integration.
Pranayama breathing exercises clear the channels on both a physical and emotional levels. This enables you to effortlessly exchange your personal energy with the energy of the universe. One of breaths practiced in yoga especially in a Vinyasa class is the Ujjayi – Success Breath. Ujjayi can help calm your mind and body when you feel irritated, stressed, anxious, or overheated. Ujjayi breath allows you to stay focused without creating any unnecessary mental friction. Ujjayi can help calm the body while it helps the mind to focus. Ujjayi creates a cooling feeling at the back of the throat and has a balancing effect on the cardio-respiratory system.
Ujjayi breath simply described is the equally deep inhalations and exhalations through your nose with mouth closed. On the exhalation, slightly constrict your throat muscles so that your exhalation sounds like a ‘Darth Vader’ breath. YOu may also want to try this practice first by exhaling the sound “haaah” with your mouth open. Now make the same sound with you mouth closed, directing the outflow air through your nasal passages. Once you have the outflow mastered, perform the same procedure on inflow, gently constricting your throat as you
Inhale. Ujjayi breath is recommended while performing your yoga poses to help you stay focused you move from one asana (posture) to the next. Ujjayi breath is also a vital tool during aerobic exercise. Olympic-level athletes have introduced Ujjayi into their training routines to enhance respiratory efficiency. Practicing Ujjayi breathing technique while performing your cardiovascular exercise will also reduce wear and tear on your body. Try Ujjayi breathing in all areas of your life to see the positive effects it can bring into your mind, body and life.