Ujjayi breath. Something I use all the time on my yoga mat. I’ve even started incorporating it into my daily life. If work gets stressful, or I’m sitting in traffic, or having trouble falling asleep, I turn on this breath and it always helps me relax.
So, what is it, you ask? Ujjayi Pranayama (ooh-JAH-yee prah-nah-YAH-mah) is one technique that helps calm the mind and warm the body. When practicing Ujjayi, you completely fill your lungs, while slightly contracting your throat, and breathe through your nose. It is the same breath you would use if you were trying to fog up a mirror, just with your mouth closed.
We use this in yoga frequently to help us relax the mind and invigorate the body. It is used as a technique to help us sustain poses that may be uncomfortable or difficult. Or, as a centering method to allow the mind to drop in and become present.
So, when I was lying on the massage table, while my therapist dug her elbow into the fascia on my hip, glutes and low back, I once again returned to my breath. I began using my Ujjayi breath and focusing on every inhale and every exhale. I felt my heart rate slow and I could notice my hands and arms physically relax under the blanket.
Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. It gets locked up or tight from pore posture, lack of flexibility or injury to an underlying muscle, tendon or bone. Targeted massage therapy can help release or loosen the fascia and relieve pain, improve flexibility, and allow the muscles, tendons, bones and organs beneath to move freely.
If you’ve ever had a myofascial release treatment you know the pain I'm referencing. This is not a massage that leaves you relaxed and serene. This is a grit your teeth, shout profanities, and punch your therapist in the face type of treatment. It’s 60 minutes, or 90 if you’re really a gluten for punishment, of fascial manipulation that can quite literally bring you to tears.
Once again, I was able to use the tools I learned on my yoga mat and get myself through an uncomfortable situation. I harnessed my breath. I couldn’t control what was being done to my body, but I could control my breath. And that was enough to get me through. And believe it or not, I'm going back for more. I think this therapy will help finally heal my nagging hip flexor injury. It will most likely take four or five more treatments over as many weeks. Trust me, I will be calling on my Ujjayi breath every time. They call it the victorious breath. And making it through that hour was definitely a small victory.