Managing mental fatigue, lack of focus and clarity, and physical ailments can be a challenge. Meditation and breathing practices can help. Over the last three years I’ve made it a priority to develop my meditation practice as part of my morning routine but it wasn’t until recently that I added a breathing practice called Ujjayi Pranayama into the routine. I started meditation mainly to manage stress and create a sense of peace and calm. I added in the breathing practice to manage mental fatigue. Below I share more about my routine, Ujjayi Pranayama, meditation and why I’m now more committed than ever to making both a regular part of my daily ritual.

Prioritize Meditation

Three years ago, I prioritized a meditation practice as a way to deal with stress and to find a sense of peace and calm that I felt was lacking in my life. I committed to a 20-minute meditation practice daily first thing in the morning. Surprisingly enough, I kept pretty close to my commitment with only a few days off here and there. During meditation, I practiced noticing my thoughts and letting them float by like a billowing white cloud in the sky; I got pretty good at it. I felt good taking an aspect of my health into my own hands and I did feel less stress and more peace and calm…sometimes. Nevertheless, I was committed to making meditation part of my routine in the hopes that with time, the stress would significantly diminish and I would have more peace and calm in my internal as well as my external life. [NOTE: I have been meditating and engaging in a mindful yoga practice along with many other spiritual practices for 17+ years prior to this purposeful prioritization of meditation].

Grow Meditation Practice

In the second year, I decided to increase my meditation practice to 30 minutes/session. I found this to be a relatively easy transition from my 20-minute practice. However, shortly after this change, I noticed I was being distracted by emotions and sensations in my body. I was still doing a good job of letting go of thoughts but emotions and sensations were taking me completely out of my meditation. I was increasingly frustrated and contemplated quitting my practice. I reached out to a meditation teacher who I respect to get her guidance and support. Through our discussion, I realized that I could also release emotions and sensations just like I could release thoughts. I don’t know why, but it never crossed my mind that I could also release emotions and sensations. This conversation put my meditation practice back on track; however, it took between 6-8 months to get this worked out. They say ‘the joy is in the journey.’

Taking Meditation to A New Level and Adding a Breathing Practice

During year three, I decided to add in a journaling practice after each meditation and then look for themes and patterns across meditations to help me improve certain aspects of my life. I was very excited about this addition to my practice and as a result I started to see ‘messages’ that emerged across meditations. I found these messages helpful to me in understanding certain life challenges. But, with a busy life, keeping my commitment to journaling was challenging and is definitely a work in progress. I haven’t quite figured out how to maintain this element of my practice but I continue to experiment, learn, and modify.

A few weeks ago, I listened to a talk by Swami Nirmalananda of Svaroopa Yoga where I completed yoga teaching training. Swami Nirmalananda talked about the importance of Ujjayi Pranayama, a yogic breathing practice that means Ocean Sounding Breath, IN ADDITION TO meditation. With this breathing practice, you gently constrict your throat muscles and exaggerate the sound of your breath for a dedicated amount of time. The promise of the practice is that it fills you up with the energy of aliveness. Yes! This is exactly what I needed!

While I knew about Ujjayi Pranayama and did practice it while participating in yoga classes, I have limited time for meditation and so never really focused much on Ujjayi Pranayama. I decided meditation was sufficient! That is until I heard Swami say that doing this breathing practice for 20-minutes/day would help deal with mental fatigue (along with many other things including physical ailments and lack of clarity and focus). She said ‘the single most depleting thing you can do is think.’ I felt the truth of this in my body as I could absolutely relate to feelings of mental fatigue that left me feeling depleted. These feelings have been on the increase over the last handful of years as our world gets busier and faster.

I definitely wanted a fix for this problem and nothing I had tried to date was working, so I decided to add the practice into my daily routine in the morning with 20 minutes of Ujjayi Pranayama followed by 20 minutes of meditation. I make it a priority to get up early so I have time for this practice. Some days are easier than others.

The breathing practice fills my body up with prana or alive energy. This is the same alive energy that you may experience from being around small children, the ocean, a beautiful sunset/sunrise, your pets, or even some particularly alive friends/family members/colleagues. What’s different about Ujjayi Pranayama compared with these other energy sources is that with Ujjayi Pranayama, you fill yourself up with aliveness versus looking to external sources to fill you up! In the process, you help yourself to alleviate mental fatigue, physical pain, etc. You don’t always have to look outside yourself to find relief.

According to some yoga philosophy, Ujjayi Pranayama and meditation are both necessary. Your meditation practice provides a limitless source from which to draw the energy of aliveness (prana). Without access to the source of energy through meditation, often referred to as universal energy, your ability to fill yourself up with prana or the energy of aliveness is limited. This means your body as well as your clarity and focus may suffer and your mental fatigue may increase. The verdict is still out but I am committed to the experiment. I already feel better and there is some early sense that this will work. I’ll make both a priority for at least the next seven months and assess the impact at that point in time.

You Can Practice Ujjayi Pranayama

If the above resonates with you and you want to practice Ujjayi Pranayama, I recorded a 20-minute Guided Awareness and Ujjayi Pranayama practice session for you to try: This practice includes a short guided awareness before the breathing practice to give your body time to soften.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me through my website or share below! I’d love to hear how it is going for you.

Thank you for reading! Kris

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