For most athletes, breathing is something that we take for granted and is not paid much attention to while we are developing our abilities in other areas of expertise, yet, it is so crucial to every move our muscles make, every move our body explores, every three-point jumper, every penalty shot, every final volley of an hour long match. It is a critical part of developing into a well-rounded athlete but more importantly, it is a critical part of developing, period.
In the ancient Yogi world, the breath came first, then the Asanas (poses) but for most of us who attend Yoga on a regular basis, the poses come first, and soon, we feel our breath move us in and out of the poses, as we struggle at times, breath catching occasionally as we slink just another inch forward, upward, downward, our muscles intuitively elongating into each pose that our journey offers.
Lately, almost 9 years into my own Yoga journey, I have been closing my eyes for almost the entire Yoga practice (except when teaching of course!). Balancing poses prove a special case for this endeavor, but almost all other poses can now be accomplished without sight, flowing from one to the next with ease.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when sight is removed from the Yoga practice, since all that is left is how your body feels as you relish each elongated breath in and out of your body, ears in tune with each cue uttered. Exhaling into the postures, inhaling as you relinquish the pose, repeated over and over throughout an entire practice.
Thoughts float in and out of one’s mind, and I find myself searching for my Ujjayi breath – one step up on regular long breaths, by further constricting the throat aperture on the exhale; a gentle sea shell sound escaping the nostrils. This breathing technique works to completely focus one’s mind on ONLY this breath. This here. This now. There is nothing else that matters. The mind is relaxed, completely, the body is flowing beautifully, and the spirit cannot help but be lifted to the greatest of heights.
Give it a try and see how it works for you.