First let’s connect with our breath. Take steady breaths in and out. Begin to engage ujjayi (victorious) breathing. Breathe like a lion, inhale loudly through the nose and throat so that the whole room can hear your pride. Then with the mouth open, let it out – hahhhh….VICTORY! Repeat this slowly, and on each exhale imagine the steam of your breath fogging up a mirror. Now, without changing the steady and even pace of your breath, close your mouth and continue breathing the same way. Maintain just a slight constriction in the back of your throat so that on each inhale and each exhale, you continue to fog up that imaginary mirror. Maintaining a slight constriction at the back of your throat so that you sound like waves of the ocean rushing in and out…or like Darth Vader. Try to maintain this breath throughout the entire practice. Most likely you won’t. That’s okay. When you noticed that you’ve lost your ujjayi breath, just bring yourself back. Think of ujjayi breath as a regulator that controls the amount of air coming in and out of your body, allowing time for the oxygen to circulate in your blood stream. The light constriction of the airways also helps to generate heat as the air makes its way into and out of the lungs. A sweaty beast like me can often work up a sweat just by sitting and calmly developing my ujjayi breath. As your breath stabilizes and the length of inhale approaches the length of exhale, maybe start to play with kumbaka – putting a pause in your breath at the top of each inhale and at the bottom of each exhale. I find this very helpful in vinyasa as I try to maintain connection and coordination between my breath and my movement.
Build from the bottom up. Start standing with the big toes together and the heels slightly apart. Lifting all 10 of your toes off the floor, pressing your foot mounds firmly into the ground. Stretch the big toes forward and set them down, followed by your other eight toes.
Continue to breathe evenly. Ujjayi. Victory.
Fire the quadriceps. Tilt the tailbone down to flatten out the lower back and push the frontal hip points up. Draw in the pelvic floor by flexing the Kegel muscle or squeezing your anus tight – like a fist! (Mula bandha / root lock), suck your belly in towards your spine and lift your chest (Uddiyana bandha / flying up lock) as you tilt the chin slightly downward (jalandhara bandha / net flow lock) [All 3 locks together forming the maha bandha / great lock]. Roll your shoulder blades back and down away from your ears and externally rotate the arms so that your palms face the front of the room. Check back in with your alignment points. Toes, Feet, Quads, Tailbone, Pelvic Floor, Stomach, Chest, Chin, Shoulders, Arms. If you’re engaging all these alignment points and maintaining a steady ujjayi breath, you might already be working up a pretty solid sweat.
And you should. You are mountain. You are a geological phenomenon. You mere presence creates its own weather. Your breath is victory!