On day three, we practiced for even longer, racking up over two hours of meditation, pranayama (breathing), qi gong, and asana (postures). It’s amazing how quickly long practices can go when you’re focusing on staying present.
The focus of the day was breathing, and we talked about the function of different part of breath. Inhaling nourishes the body, and exhaling cleanses, and helps with relaxation. We also practiced breath retention (holding at the end of an inhale) and suspension (holding at the end of an exhale), which are not my forte. I used to be a lifeguard, and I nearly failed one of my certification courses because I had such a hard time holding my breath for long enough to get a brick off the bottom of the diving pool!
I’ve heard many different descriptions of full yogic breath in passing, but Dina went over it in detail. The inhale fills the belly first, then expands into the sides of the rib cage, then into the upper back, eventually causing the chest to lift slightly. There’s a short pause at the end of the inhale. Then, keeping expansion in the rib cage, exhale, emptying from the belly first, and then releasing the air in the rib cage. Pause of the end of the exhale before starting the next inhale. One of Dina’s rules of thumb for breathing is that you should be able to do it with a relaxed face.
We talked about a number different breathing practices, but ujayii pranayama is the most accessible. The sound of the breath helps keep you focused, and the gentle constriction of the throat helps elongate the breath. Both of these help calm the mind and the nervous system. I find ujayii breath to be so useful in challenging postures. Some teachers get you to try to make ujayii as loud as possible, but given that ujayii is supposed to be calming, this can detract from the purpose. Dina characterizes ujayii as “brushing” past the back of the throat or the roof of the mouth. It should be loud enough for you to hear, but the person next to you may not necessarily hear it.
This post is part of a series describing my experience with the first module of my advanced yoga teacher training (RYT500).
Advanced Yoga Teacher Training
Day 1: Resistance
Day 2: Acceptance
Day 3: Breath
Day 4: Emotions
Day 5: Energy
Day 6: Asana
Day 7: Transformation