Today’s post is brought to you by Ashley S. Ashley graduated from Namaslay® YTT Thailand, and also joined as my assistant at the Namaslay® Business and Marketing Retreat in Scottsdale last December. She’s a practicing yoga teacher in San Marcos, Texas, and since she’s no stranger to YBC® I’ve asked her to cover for our Editorial Director, LG, as she heads out on maternity leave soon. Today Ashley’s introducing herself and breaking down 5 breathing practices to help you reset. Show her some love in the comments! XO Candace
Breathing is my favorite. It sounds so silly to say. Obviously we all do; we gotta. But truly, in practicing yoga, I’ve discovered the power of focused, conscious breathing, and I return my mind to it again and again throughout the day.
Feeling anxious or stressed? Slow your breathing.
Need some energy? Try some powerful inhales and exhales.
Want to savor a joyful moment? Take a deep, slow breath and draw in the present.
I recently attended a yoga workshop led by my friend, Colton Coiner (check him out on Instagram), and he introduced us to the practice of the outer vayus, as explained in Vayu’s Gate: Yoga and the Ten Vital Winds. Each vayu (literally translates to “wind”), is connected to the contractions and dilations our bodies naturally perform in actions like yawning, sneezing, belching, defecating and vomiting.
Before you jump to, “Ew, gross. Why would I practice puking?,” try to focus on the purpose of these bodily functions rather than their form. They exist to expel the unnecessary, to restore, relax and replenish us. Much like the bandhas in a yoga practice, bringing your awareness and appreciation to the small and subtle parts of yourself induces a meditative state, and when we can harness the intuitive power of our bodies and breath, we can find more control over our nerves, our thoughts, ourselves.
To practice the five prana vayus, you can lie down, sit or stand. Repeat each 3- 5 times.
The Naga (Snake) Vayu - Inhale through your nose and imagine a widening of your throat. Soften your tongue and let it rest in your mouth. Turn your head to one side, open your mouth and stick out your tongue (put some effort behind it), while exhaling. Feel your throat constrict as you make the “haaaaaa” sound. It’s similar to the Ujjayi breathing sensation, or when you use your breath to fog glass.
The Kurma (Turtle) Vayu - Inhale and turn your gaze up slightly. Slowly and gradually widen your eyes, continuing to look up toward the space between your eyebrows. Keep your eyes open until you begin to blink or your eyes water. Exhale and close your eyes.
The Krikara (Pepper) Vayu - Inhale and widen your nostrils. You can even bring your index fingers to the corners of your nose and gently draw them to the sides. Hold here with suspended breath for a moment, then exhale through the nose.
The Devadata (God-Given) Vayu - Let yourself yawn, sound and all. If you open your mouth and take a slow, deep inhale, you will likely induce a natural yawn and sigh on the exhale. Notice if one side of your face widens more than the other. See if you can bring balance in your next one. Notice the ears spreading as your jaw and throat open.
The Dhananjaya (Victorious) Vayu - This one is my favorite. It’s that good morning, all over, yummy feeling stretch we instinctively find when we first wake up or after a good savasana. Inhale and reach your arms over your head, make fists with your hands and curl them in toward one another. Elongate your whole body, and if you’re lying down, extend the feet and point the toes too. Feel free to turn and sigh, whatever comes naturally as you release in exhalation.
In practicing these breathing techniques, I find release of tension and stress. I feel more awake and refreshed. I feel like I can relax and bring more focus and attention to the moment at hand. Give them a try! If you don’t feel comfortable hissing like a snake at your desk, or know your colleagues would be unnerved by the sight of you widening and crossing your eyes, take a quick break in the bathroom or step outside to reset. Your body and mind deserve some attention, and your breath is the key to a powerfully present you.
I’m so excited to be part of the YBC® team! I’ve added more about myself to the About YBC® page, and if there’s any topic you’d like to hear more about or explore on the blog, drop me a line or comment below! - Ashley