Consistent Yoga practice produces a significant change in the quality of our breathing. We start noticing that our breath becomes more smooth, unobstructed and deeper when we practice Yoga mindfully and with regularity. Although this is generally true when we practice various of the traditional limbs of Yoga, this change is most easily observed in our asana practice. The 2 techniques I would like to suggest are related to observing closely how we breathe. These techniques build on the foundation of breath awareness and on the benefits of using ujjayi breathing. The objective of these techniques is to guide our attention inward and to focus our awareness to our present actions. As a result, the quality of our participation increases, leading us to immerse more fully in our Yoga practice. In turn, this facilitates our more present participation in our daily activities.
The first technique is to concentrate our attention on the sound of the breath. An easy way to direct our attention to the sound of our breath is by using ear plugs during our practice. Using ear plugs makes the sound of our breath more noticeable which also helps us focus our attention inward. For most of us, noticing more the sound of our breath may not prevent our mind from wandering. However, it will be easier to notice when the mind gets distracted and therefore we can choose to return our attention gently to the breath. In many cases, just feeling the ear plugs in will serve as a reminder to listen attentively to the breath. Eventually, consistent practice strengthens our capacity to focus, and then the ear plugs will have achieved its function and will no longer be needed.
This technique is an integration of pranayama and sense withdrawal (pratyahara).
Increased Sensitivity to Breath Movements
Once it becomes easier to observe the breath consistently, we can try to develop a greater sensitivity to the movement of the breath. The second technique further deepens our attention by focusing on the subtle aspects of breathing, specifically by observing the transitions between inhalations and exhalations. As we observe with clear attention the continuous movement of breath, we focus on the brief pause between inhalations and exhalations and vice versa. Noticing and focusing on this brief pauses often increases our breathing capacity. Most importantly, it also increases our awareness, thus bringing a meditative quality to our practice.
It is important to remember that the breath at all times continues to be smooth and unrestricted. As we practice this technique we can explore the effects of slightly lengthening these pauses.
Focused attention on the pauses between inhalation and exhalation integrates aspects of pranayama, pratyahara, concentration (dharana) and sustained attention (dhyana)
Like with any other techniques, we observe our practice before and after using these techniques and we notice how each technique works and if it has any beneficial effects.
I hope these techniques are useful to deepen your practice.
Simple guided meditation with Rubén