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Dear Ujjayi Pranayama

Dear ujjayi pranayama,

I don’t know where I would be without you. You have gotten me through some really rough times and have seen me through some of the most challenging moments in my life. I wish we’d met sooner. I went through a lot, physically and emotionally, before we met and I wasn't as well equipped to roll with the impacts of life. Those moments left hard dents of samskara throughout my microcosm that I'm still sorting out. But since I’ve spent time practicing with you, I've found those hard and not-so-hard "dent" moments have less of an impact when met with you as soon as possible. I can remain in - or more likely - come back to, a calmer state with your intervention. When this happens I feel my heart rate slow, I feel more steady, present, and able to manage the task at hand. 

You are usually the one principle I practice, ekam tattva abhyasa, (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.32) to get from a clouded mind, Chitta Vikshepa, to a clear mind, Chitta Prasad. Especially if I'm working through the physical practice (asana). I do find help clearing my mind sometimes  from your friends, breath of fire (Kapalbhati Pranayama), alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) and box breathing (Sama Vritti Pranayama), from time to time but you are who I spend most of my conscious breathing with.

You give me something to hold onto throughout my yoga practice that carries me from asana to asana. If I get side tracked and lose the breath and/or forget where I am in the sequence I can take a moment to collect myself and connect the breath to movement again. As per your purpose, you provide this element of meditation and depth to the practice that can’t be understood without you. If I lose focus, reconnecting with you helps me recognize that my mind has strayed and I need to bring it back to the present moment and to the task at hand. You also help me in understanding the greater depth of each moment spent on my mat.   

You are a meter for my practice. You let me know if I’m moving too fast or slow.

You show me my thoughts are wandering if my breath becomes shallow. If I’m not breathing, I’m probably too deep into the pose then I should be on that particular day. There’s a lot to be understood when I’m really paying attention to you.

You are great company when I’m in a good place (Sukha) but you’re an asset when I'm suffering (Dukha). I took breathing classes for giving birth to my son Nebulas, but I couldn’t remember any of the techniques when it was time to use them. I ended up ujjayi breathing through natural labor and delivery, with a little help from Kapalbhati (Breath of fire). I practice you when I get tattoos or am in any pain, sometimes I need you just to keep my temper under control.

You’re great for helping with time management. You are a way to keep track of time so I can lose track of time. I know roughly how long it takes for me to take 5 ujjayi breaths. Based on that I know how long it takes me to get through my Sun Salutations (10 breaths in A, 14 in B), standing sequence and so forth. I can decide how far into the sequence time allows me to get through without checking the clock. Taking long ujjayi breaths in each position buys me the time I need to make the most out of every moment by making the postures as precise as is within my abilities.

What I think is extra wonderful about you are the not-so-obvious benefits you provide.

You increase vagal tone by suppressing the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), turning off my physical response to stress. You provide the heat I need to make productive changes for growth by strengthening and stretching the breath. I love that I can practice with you and build strength in muscles in a way not possible any other way. And using about 4 times the amount of muscles ujjayi breathing than during my normal breathing patterns makes me feel more solid throughout my torso. That heat and vibration opens my sinuses which feels great after working in my gardens. You also stabilize and lift my mood. No matter where my mood was before ujjayi breathing, it’s always better afterwards. On an energetic level I can feel you powering up my energy system (chakras, nadis, marmas), and providing my blood with oxygen. 

Thank you ujjayi pranayama for being with me through thick and thin. I’ll see you in the near future. 



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