Yoga Practice

Breathing “Right”

I remember very clearly the first time I heard ujjayi breath. It was almost eight years ago when I walked into my first ever hot yoga class. I dabbled with yoga for a couple of years before taking this power class, but I was a total novice. The extent of my yoga experience was some DVDs from the library (before YouTube was all the rage). I knew some of the poses, but really had no idea about the power of breath in yoga.

I walked into the sweaty studio, crammed my mat next to the at least thirty other people in the room, and the class started. Immediately the instructor began talking about turning on an ocean sounding breath, and all around me I heard breath start to fill up the room. To be honest, my first few classes I thought the place had a sound machine that made the noises I was hearing. It took me a few classes to catch on to this whole ujjaiy breath thing and even longer before I really got into practicing it myself.

Breathing deeply while moving vigorously is a lot harder to implement than it may seem. Luckily for me, the studio I was practicing at was all about the breath. The instructors stressed the importance of linking deep breath with the postures and we started practicing breathing in and out through our noses at the beginning of each class. After some consistent practice, I was really getting into this whole belly breath thing and really benefiting from how calm and focused I felt when I did it. I fell in love with ujjayi breath and greedily reaped all its’ benefits.

Flash forward to a few years later when I have been practicing yoga consistently for a little while. I decide to expand my yoga horizons and try a new studio. I’m instantly in love with this place and the fun, playful yoga it offers. I attend tons of classes and continue to harness my breath and grow. One day I take a class I have never been to before. I set up in my usual spot in the back corner (my safe place) and we start flowing.

About halfway through the class the instructor comes over and taps me. I assume she is going to correct my pose or help me get deeper into it, two things that are common in a yoga class. Instead she tells me (not quietly I may add) that I am breathing too loudly and that she can hear me “across the room.” I am shocked, appalled, and embarrassed. I have no idea how to respond to this critique. I reply something like, “ I thought that’s how we were supposed to breathe.” She shakes her head no and tells me I need to be more quiet with it. The rest of the class is a blur. My inner peace was destroyed; I am afraid to breathe and I just want to get the hell out of there.

After this critique I felt like a bad yogi. For a few minutes, I questioned whether my breath was too powerful and whether I was doing yoga “right.” I then realized that I was breathing exactly as I had been taught and even more importantly breathing exactly in the way that made me feel amazing. I thought about talking to the teacher and asking for clarification about what she meant, but I was just too frustrated. I felt like she shamed me unnecessarily. I eventually decided to just let the situation go, keep breathing deeply, and never go back to one of her classes.

My point in wanting to share this experience is this: Don’t let other people dull your shine and tell you what you are doing is “wrong.” Even if it’s loud or nontraditional, do whatever you love as long as you are being kind to yourself and others. Use yoga as a way to practice self-kindness and gratitude. And let whatever bullshit anyone tells you (yoga teacher or otherwise) roll off your skin and away from you. Be authentic to yourself and know that you are doing right.

Oh… and breathe as loud as you freaking want, because it really helps in all kinds of ways!

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4 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Amanda

    April 3, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    I can’t believe she did that! When I’m teaching, I correct anything that could be dangerous, then I fine-tune the yogis who are “close” to something more. What she did does sound like unnecessary shaming, and perhaps had more to do with HER than it had to do with you. 🙂 I’m so glad it didn’t push you away from yoga. There is a lot to be gained, even from the teachers we don’t enjoy and decide not to go back to. 🙂

  2. Cathy Lawdanski

    Cathy Lawdanski

    April 4, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Sorry she did that. Very uncool. Glad you didn’t let it deter you from breathing the way you learned & made you feel great!

  3. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    April 4, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I love this! I had an experience at the very first yoga studio I went to (the very first yoga class I ever went to!) where the teacher pointed me out in front of everyone, criticizing my posture and showing people, through me, how NOT to do the pose. I was mortified. I wanted to scream that I was new at this, I had never done 85% of those poses. After 3 years of practice, I have found a studio that gives you options, not just if a pose is too hard, but if your breathing doesn’t feel right, they help you find what works best for you. I am a huge fan of “oceanic breathing”. I breathe this way when I meditate, when I yoga, when I run, when I need to calm myself down… My husband actually stopped me on the treadmill last night to see if I was okay. He said “you’re breathing steadily, but your mouth is closed and I can still hear you.” So I told him what I was doing, he tried it out himself and he praised it! He said breathing like that helped keep his heart rate down so he could run longer.

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    Sara

    February 22, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you. This just happened to me as well. I felt like crawling in a hole and hiding. Your authenticity is exactly what I needed. Love

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