Viloma Breath: Breathing Through the Chaos
This time of year is chaotic. Our “to-do” list is endless, get-togethers with family and friends abound and emotions can run high as the memories of departed loved ones resurface. There is no better time to connect with your breath; as for me, it is in my breath that I always find strength.
Several months back my teacher, Kathy, introduced me to a pranayama exercise called viloma breath. In Sanskrit, viloma translates to mean against the natural flow; “vi” suggests contradiction and “loma” means hair. To identify with this translation, I picture petting my dog’s hair in the reverse direction going against the natural flow of his hair. A funny word on the surface, yet after some self-study and exploration with my own classes I have come to appreciate this exercise more than I would have ever thought.
Pranayama and breathing exercises have interested me in my personal practice for some time, but I was hesitant to bring it to my classes as I was afraid it might intimidate participants. Still, I felt the concept was important as it helps us understand what it truly feels like to be completely full with air and then completely void of air. This awareness of a full breath allows us to better utilize it throughout our practice, recalling what it means to use our entire breath to relax and match movement with breath.
To practice viloma breath you may want to be seated or lying down on your back. I begin with steady, even breath; the length of my inhale matching the length of my exhale. I then move into viloma breath, breaking my inhale breath into three parts, pausing and holding between each third of my breath. Once at the top of my breath, I exhale, breaking the breath into three parts while pausing between each section. As I practiced this breath with my classes I learned it was quite different to breathe through this process on my own, than to guide my classes through it.
I learned two important points:
- Beginners felt the process was a bit overwhelming to break both the inhale and exhale breath into three parts; never feeling like they were able to take a complete inhale or exhale.
- I was not leaving enough time for a complete exhale breath as I talked through the exercise versus practicing it myself.
I am fortunate to have knowledgeable students who discussed these concerns with me and from there we were able to make a few adjustments to our breath exercise, allowing students to relax a little deeper as they trusted themselves enough to bring this exercise to their practice and accept the many benefits it has to offer. We now practice a three part inhale breath matched with one full, long exhale breath. We perform this exercise two or three times either at the beginning of the practice or at the end of the practice; and, when time permits we use it both at the beginning and end of the practice.
I appreciate the mindfulness viloma breath has brought to my practice. More importantly I love the recognition of breath it has brought many of the participants in my classes. Recognize your breath, find your inner strength.
~The divine in me salutes the divine in you, Namaste~