The Ashtanga Breathing Technique
Friendly Darth Vader - The Ujjiyi (Victory breath)
The basis of the practice is the breath. Ashtanga Yoga is a breath practice, it's a dance to the rhythm of the breath and that's because slowing, deepening and bringing a calm rhythm to the breath activates parasympathetic nervous system dominance. Remember though that we need to create the SPACE for that breath (so many Star Wars references!) in the body, check you're not squishing organs!
The parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is in charge of digestion, hormonal balance and calm and creative thought, The sympathetic branch of the nervous system in contrast is in charge of fight and flight - tensing of muscles and inflammatory response - when that's in charge we are ready to run from tigers - muscles tight, digestion turned off, inflammatory response preparing for injury, no creativity, no sense of humour, insomnia - who has time to go to the loo, laugh at jokes or write a novel when running from danger?
So, the Ashtanga yoga breathing practice enables us to spend 60 minutes in parasympathetic nervous system dominance, this becomes a habit and gradually our breath habitually stays calm, deep and slow, our heart rate no longer increases when we're stuck in traffic or our partner doesn't put the bins out again, or an email comes in from the boss - or whatever our usual triggers are. As our practice develops we also experience how using the breath also creates space in the body, releases tension ins specific areas and enables a deeper movement into postures.
Plus what better rhythm to dance to than your own breath?