Breathe to Beat Yoga Boredom
Boredom. It's a terrible enemy of disciplined daily yoga practice. It's especially pernicious if you practice in a style where you are required to always do the same sequence, in the same order.
Of course, that’s part of the point: the repetitiveness demands discipline to keep yourself focused. But the human mind being what it is, it’s always looking for learning and growth. Or at least, variety.
Why not work with that?
Why not occasionally switch up your practice to add interest and change how you experience the poses?
This is a strategy that shows up a lot in the Krishnamacharya tradition: vary your breath to keep you present in your asana practice and to change how you move into and out of the asanas.
Give these a go:
1. Krama: breaking movement & breath.
Krama means ‘stages’ in Sanskrit, and this technique can be a lot of fun. Basically, you break you breath into two or three parts and you do the same with your movement.
For example, if you are moving into a forward bend, take a big inhale to prepare, then exhale halfway, move halfway into the posture. Exhale all the way, move all the way into the pose.
You could break you inhale and movement on the way up, too, if you wanted to.
Krama can really add an element of challenge if you use it in poses that require strength: for example, moving from plank into chaturanga in two parts. And back up in two parts. Uhuh. Yup. You will be fully present for that one!
2. Pause after exhale with pronounced uddiyana bandha.
Some traditions have practitioners holding udidyana bandha, the abdominal lock designed to stabilise your core, all the time, and some don’t. It can be interesting to emphasise that firming of the belly though: pausing at the end of the exhale, completely empty of air, and tucking your belly even more under your ribs. Progress would be marked by increasing the hold after exhale, in your comfort of course. When you need to inhale, you soften the bandha to allow the air in.
Down Dog lends itself to this practice, and it’s a great place to learn to control your core before moving into inversions and arm balances.
Practicing this technique in sarvangasana (shoulderstand) or sirsasana (headstand) amps up the challenge of those inversions and really shows up any holes in your technique or core strength!
3. Move with brahmari breath.
Brahmari breath is the humming breath. It sounds like the ‘mmm’ part of an ‘Ommmmm’. you might try using it instead of your standard ujjayi and noticing how that influences your practice, your breath, and the quality of your mind.
While ujjayi is an energising breath, brahmari is a more soothing one. It’s especially interesting to notice how it feels to move into challenging poses using this breath. I sometimes find it allows me to access the ease within the effort in a way that other breath doesn’t.
It’s also interesting to notice how it feels to move into forward bends and twists - the kind of poses designed to release our musculature. You might try it and see if it allows you to deepen your experience of the pose. Brahmari seems to lend itself to deep relaxation, like a child humming itself to sleep.
You could do the same poses on three different days, with the emphasis on one of these breath practices, and have a totally different experience! Yay that. Yay breathing, actually.