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Shavasana and Ujjayi

If you only have time for a little bit of yoga, it is tempting to skip the "not doing" of Shavasana. There are certainly times when this is a valid choice. I urge you, however, to remember that Ujjayi Pranayama is the most healing practice you can do. The best pose in which to practice your Ujjayi breath is Shavasana.

Lying down on your back in Shavasana, yoga's relaxation pose, gives your entire body a "time out" message. Elevate your lower legs to create more space in the bottom of the back of your lungs, the breathing area that is least utilized in everyday breathing. Position your hands, palms up, a foot or so away from your body, arms softly straight. This rotates your upper arms in a way that prompts relaxation in the latissimus dorsi, large muscles of the back.

Allow your body to settle into Shavasana with easy breathing for a few minutes before you start your Ujjayi practice. Clear your throat to find your inner throat muscles, then use them to narrow your throat passageway slightly, creating a sound you can hear with each breath in and out of your nose. Listen to the sound of your breath, making it slow, even, and, most importantly, effortless. If you find yourself getting stressed about doing this "right" just go back to simply listening to the sound of your breath as it is. If you notice your mind has wandered, gently bring your attention back to the sound of your breath.

Ujjayi is pranayama because it builds your reserve of life energy, or prana. If your immune system is facing a challenge, Ujjayi will increase its energy and activity. If your immune system is overactive, as in allergies or autoimmune disorder, Ujjayi will calm and balance your system.

The ideal Ujjayi practice for daily maintenance of health and wellbeing is 20 minutes. To balance and mobilize your energy for healing a specific challenge, twice that amount is good. Don't be overwhelmed by the recommendations, though. You can do five or ten minutes when you have time, a few times a day if possible. Start small and build up to your ideal practice. If you find yourself falling asleep when you practice Ujjayi, use your alarm clock's snooze feature or the timer on your cell phone. Or accept that you need the rest and enjoy it!

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