Everything in life has a unique rhythm. From our heartbeat, to the cycles of the moon and the length of each season, everything follows a pattern or tempo reflecting the cyclical nature of life. As a mother, I am learning to become more comfortable with the rhythm of motherhood and the balance between being a mother, wife, friend and teacher. This balance can be challenging, but there are many techniques within the practice of Yoga that help me find balance and sometimes even a little grace.
When I first brought my baby home, I was filled with love, joy, and a healthy dose of terror. How could I let him know how much I love him? What if the mattress in the crib was too stiff and hurt his spine (This particular fear was accompanied vivid by visions of the muscles in his back becoming tight and rigid.)? What if McCain won the election, what legacy would my little boy inherit? The list of my fears for and about my son went on and on. After a few days of these thoughts, I had to take control of the wild horses running around my mind. I was in fact the one driving the chariot, so it was time to take the reins.
Whenever I teach, I often begin with the instruction, “Close your eyes and go within.” In order to take the reins and find balance, I decided to take my own advice. I closed my eyes and slowed my breath. As I did, I could feel my thoughts also becoming slower.
When I prayed to know the best technique for finding a sense of peace, the word I heard in this meditative state was ‘balance.’ As soon as I heard this knew how to proceed: pranayama.
There are many different types of breathing techniques (pranayama) used in Yoga. One of the most simple and most common is ujayii pranayama, which means ‘victorious breath.’ With this breath, we feel a sense of reenergizing the body and we cultivate an innate sense of balance between the inhalation and the exhalation. Ujayii teaches us to balance how much we take in with how much we let go.
To practice ujayii, breathe deeply through the nose only and very slightly constrict the back of the throat. You will feel a little vibration in the back of the throat, in an area known as the glottis. As the glottis vibrates, you will hear a bit of sound similar to the ocean’s waves. The breath should be loud enough so that it is audible to you, but not forced or artificial. Allow the inhalation to completely fill your belly and chest (imagine it rising all the way from your belly to your collarbones). On the exhalation, slowly release the air, gauging the speed so that the inhalation and exhalation become equal in length. There should be a slight warming effect in the body, which is very pleasant and calming in nature.
I know this form of breathing intimately. She is like an old friend that gives me a warm embrace each time that I greet her. In my practice, as I connected to this slow, rhythmic breathing, I could finally guide those wild horses in the direction that I chose. For me, it was in the direction of peaceful, balanced thoughts. As I experienced inner peace, fears started to fade into the distance and were replaced by a pervasive feeling of unconditional love for my child. I realized that in allowing myself to receive the benefits of this technique, I was in fact giving my son the gift of a happy, healthy, balanced mommy.
I encourage mothers of all ages to enjoy a few minutes of ujayii pranayama. As you do, connect to a sense of balance between the energy that you give and the energy that you receive (the in breath and the out breath). Enjoy the benefits of this ‘victorious breath,’ and feel it balancing your inner rhythm, the rhythm of motherhood.
Desi Bartlett MS, CPT, has been teaching health and wellness for more than 20 years. Originally from Chicago, she has a degree in kinesiology and her master’s degree in corporate fitness. Desi holds advanced certifications in Yoga, personal training, group fitness, and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist.