PRACTICE YOGA LIKE MAKING NECKLACE AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE LIKE THE JOURNEY OF THE TRAIN
When we practice asana, there’s a tendency to focus on postures. The most important thing that
we should be focussing on, however, is maintaining regular breathing—Ujjayi Pranayama—
throughout the whole practice. Steady, regular breathing calms our mind and activates the
parasympathetic nervous system, inducing the ‘relaxation response’. Irregular breathing, on the
other hand, promotes the body’s ‘fighting mode’. I always like to think of this like making a
necklace with string and beads. Our breath is the string; postures are the beads. The top of the
string is the beginning of the practice and the end of the string is the end of practice, just before
savasana—relaxation. If the string is same thickness from the top to the end without any knots,
we can put on the beads easily and make the beautiful necklace effortlessly. But if the string is not
smooth, or has some knots, it is hard to put the beads through and makes us tired or frustrated.
During asana practice if our breath becomes irregular—for instance, when holding our breath or
shortening our breath on certain postures—it will be like making the knots in the string or tensing
the string of the necklace. We quickly become tired and frustrated during practice. We begin
using our ego to force our body to do the postures, sometimes resulting in injury. When we
maintain Ujjayi breathing through our practice, the practice becomes effortless effort as our
body is relaxed. Even after challenging postures, we do not feel tired. The entire practice
becomes enjoyable. Thus, focus on breathing first, then synchronise movement. Best of all, this
technique can be applied to our daily lives as well.
Another metaphor that might be helpful to explain this is one of a train. The train moves along
the rails, steadily at speed. The train Driver maintains the speed of the train and the Conductor
oversees the passengers. Passengers board and disembark regularly. If the train is moving
steadily the train Conductor can work calmly and the passengers remain safe. If the train runs at
irregular speeds, or suddenly stops, everybody will panic. This is exactly like our lives. The pace
of the train is our breathing; the carriages are our body; the Conductor is our mind; and the rails
are our passage through life, or through time. The passengers represent our daily interactions,
social lives and relationships. By maintaining regular breathing, keeping the train running
steadily, we can stay calm throughout, regardless of our interactions with others. We can calmly
find the best solution to problems and conduct ourselves without simply reacting to whatever
happens. In this way, the stress in our life can be managed.
The most important thing to remember is that the train Driver maintains the pace of the train,
regardless of weather or difficult passengers. The train Driver is our consciousness. We need our
consciousness to control our breathing all of the time, keeping our mind calm, like the Conductor.
It is especially important, when we face the problems or challenges, to keep our breath steady. A
calm mind can accept things as they are and find the best solution. We can act, without reacting.
We should never mix the roles of our Driver and Conductor as this leads to irregular breathing,
which then leads to ‘fighting mode,’ thus creating more problems. This is one of the leading causes
of stress in our lives. This idea can be applied to our yoga practice. Just as a train Driver needs
training to become proficient, we need to train our consciousness, too. This is why we practise on
the mat, so that gradually we can use this technique in our daily lives without even realising it.
Next time, when we face some problem, just take a deep breath—it might be a good start to an
interesting journey. Enjoy your own journey on your own train...perhaps you’ll prefer the scenic
route, rather than the Bullet train?