By Karuna Beaver
I used to practice an athletic yoga style, with a forceful Ujjayi Pranayama. It kept you breathing through the exertion. Taking my first Svaroopa® yoga class, I was surprised at the soft and subtle Ujjayi practice. I was used to forcing my breath, sounding like Darth Vader. I didn’t know then that the Force was within.
While I loved my earlier yoga practice, it didn’t love me back. Or I should say it didn’t love my back. Pain sent me to yoga classes labeled “gentle” or “restorative.” My first Svaroopa® yoga Shavasana didn’t lay me on a sweaty mat with an arched and achy back. Instead, with legs propped high, my back flattened and softened. I settled into the sound of my breath, and felt a wave of calm wash through me. My body felt the “love.” It still does. I love Ujjayi Pranayama, and it loves me back — and my back!
But now I know Ujjayi isn’t about the love or the calm. It’s about tapping into “the Force,” my own life force. It opens me into the “more” that I am. Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi’s recent contemplation article, “All You Need is…” says you don’t need love. Instead, you need Ujjayi Pranayama to tap into your life force and into your greater Essence. I can attest to this, and I imagine you can too.
Ujjayi Pranayama is a simple practice. Anyone can do it. You slightly exaggerate the sound of your breath, while listening to it, you sense the life force that moves through you. Yoga names this force prana. It is the pulsation of Shiva moving within Shiva. It’s a force to be reckoned with. Swami and Rukmini write, “Prana is the cosmic energy of aliveness that underlies everything that exists, including you.” When you are filled with prana, you are aware and tuned in. When your prana is low, so are you: disconnected, in mental or physical pain. Which would you rather be? It’s a no-brainer.
I have been practicing Ujjayi Pranayama for 20 minutes daily pretty much since I started Svaroopa® yoga more than a decade ago. In times of illness or injury, I have doubled my practice to 20 minutes or more twice daily. It works. It works on levels that I notice and on levels that I don’t yet have the discernment to understand.
Swami and Rukmini write that 20 minutes of Ujjayi Pranayama will balance your whole pranic system. Then you have the capacity to take things in and get rid of what you don’t need. You can evaluate and integrate what serves you. You bubble up with the energy of being vibrantly alive. Sounds like a pretty good trade for 20 minutes of your time each day!
While the benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama are profound, they are just the tip of the iceberg. You feel more alive, tap into your life force and experience the “love” that IS you, your own Self. All in 20 minutes a day. What a simple and profound prescription for a life filled to the brim, a life of knowing who and what you truly are — Shiva. As Swami says, do more Ujjyai.