Yoga and self-awareness go hand in hand. In fact you might say that yoga’s purpose is to bring you into a greater sense of self awareness or self knowledge. Sometimes self-awareness and self-consciousness are used synonymously in fact this very subject has been coming up for me lately. Self-awareness is the ability to look inside and to recognize oneself as an individual being that is separate from the environment around you and other individuals. When feeling self-conscious we become preoccupied with the smallest details of our actions and how others might be perceiving them. With thoughts like “is everyone looking at me” and “what are they thinking” we might be coming from a place of low self-esteem or embarrassment of who we are rather than self-awareness. When we are in a state of self-awareness we are noticing details but in a much different way. Have ever been in an accident and experienced everything happening in slow motion? This is a heightened state of awareness. With practice we can learn this heightened state and find the space to actually interpret our thoughts and emotions rather than falling into the pattern of self-consciousness.
From the ancient tradition of yoga we learn that to truly be in a state of self-awareness we must learn to quiet the mind. The breath has been used universally as a link for developing self-awareness. In fact the beauty of unifying breath and movement, or life, is Yoga. For thousands of years the word yoga has been emphasized as union, oneness, and love. When we step into a this type of awareness we move outside of our thoughts and notice a different perspective. We may begin to notice our personality, our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, values, motivation, emotions in any given moment. We learn to notice where our thoughts and emotions are taking us without judgment. This gives us the opportunity to change the thoughts and interpretations of our mind. When we change the interpretations of our mind we can begin to change our emotions. Now we decide how we will behave and respond, we choose our actions. With this type of awareness we are victorious.
Ujjayi pranayama (pronounced oo-jai), is an ancient yogic breathing technique that helps calm the mind and body. Commonly translated as “victorious breath,” Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath which first fills the lower belly, rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing rather than the chest.
Experience it here… (You can practice this as you read or have someone slowly read you the following text aloud and put in a break after each section.):
- Sit or lye down with your spine straight and close your eyes. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- When exhaling, produce the sound ‘Hhhhaaaaa’.
- Now keep your mouth closed while exhaling. Generate the same hhhhaaa sound as before but this time with your mouth closed. The position of your throat is unchanged and natural. Make sure the sound originates from your throat and not from your nose.
- Now maintain the same throat position while inhaling, producing the same sound.
- Begin to balance your inhalation with your exhalation. Balance the sound, quality and length of your breath. You’ll probably notice that your exhalation is longer and stronger so expand and emphasize your inhalation.
- Feel your heartbeat. Inhale over approximately three to five heartbeats and exhale over the same amount. Feel your breath expanding.
- Lift your arms while inhaling, and lower them while exhaling. Notice the way your breath adjusts to the movement (Vinyasa) and how this expands your breath.
- Now let your hands and arms rest while you let your breath flow. Experience the effect of this breathing. By expanding your breath, you absorb Prana (energy). You might even feel a delicate tingling in the back of your throat. As your practice becomes more refined and advanced, the quality of your breath will become more subtle and you will become more in touch with the Prana.
- Concentrate on the turning point between inhalation and exhalation. Make sure you keep your breath flowing and your throat open. This is the basis for an ongoing flow of energy.
- Now slowly open your breath and return to normal breathing.
Each of us is already infinitely wondrous--
miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable
(Divine if you prefer)
Our wondrous nature is the same as the infinite wonder of the universe.
We experience this infinite wonder by waking up to reality.
~ Quote from Gita in a nutshell #4