Pranayama breathing practices and Asana practices create a cycle of growth and expansion of (amongst other thing) breath. Ujjayi breathing in Asana develops a strong and enduring breath. Then in Pranayama that strength and capacity is used to refine the breath and make it longer. Then that refinement and length of breath is again carried over into Asana practices – and this goes on and on in a never ending cycle of strength and length (similar to the gradual development of strength and flexibility in a physical body).
It is possible to intensify this cycle by introducing breathing formulas into Asana. To do this you must first have an established relationship with:
- Asana – you need to have a well defined and rooted physical practice before introducing another dimension of physical and consciousness effort.
- Ujjayi – ujjayi should be an inseparable part of your asana practice.
- Pranayama – you need to be familiar and comfortable with your breathing capacity and with structured breath formulas.
The first meeting between breathing formulas and asana should occur in familiar and comfortable settings:
- Breath length – choose an inhale length (your basic breathing duration) that is less then what you use in your Pranayama practice. If in Pranayama you use an 8 second inhale then in Asana start with 6 seconds.
- Breath formula – start with an equal inhale and exhale and with a 1 second pause after inhale and exhale to allow for a controlled and smooth transition. For example, if your inhale is 6 seconds your breathing formula in asana would be 18.104.22.168
- Asana – start with simple and accessible Asana, introduction of the breath is a worthy challenge, don’t overdo it by choosing difficult or challenging asana. If you have a personal practice that is gradual and balanced then it is probably best to start with the first set of postures.
This meeting of structured breath and asana can be a rich experience. You may find that each asana leads to a different experience. Some asana may seem connected and flowing with the breath, others may lead to friction. Different asana will challenge different parts of the breath – some asana may be aligned with inhaling and others with exhaling. Remember to retain a healthy relationship between breath and movement – the breath is a home to movement, movement takes place inside the breath. Adjusting breath to movement will probably lead to over-exertion, friction and tension – the breath will “run-out”. On the other hand, adjusting movement to breath is fairly simple and may at most lead to some friction with the ego.
Practicing Asana with structured breathing may take some getting-used-to and it will intensify the development of the breath. When it becomes an established part of your practice you will have gained access to the alchemy of energy in Yoga.