In Sharon Gannon’s book The Magic Ten and Beyond, she expands on this practice of breathing through the explanation of pranayama. The breath that we use to connect to the poses is ujayi, and this breath has a quality of equal inhalation and exhalation, called sama vritti in Sanskrit. Do a few breath exercises and you’ll quickly notice that the pace and rhythm of your breath is your own.
When we practice yoga, we focus on our own breathing. We don’t think of tapping our neighboring yogi in the shoulder just to say “hey, you’re breathing wrong”. We have an understanding that our practice is our own, and so long as each is not hurting anyone, we honor our own way of breathing and moving. And yet, when we leave the safety of the yoga practice room, we constantly judge people to be doing the wrong thing, living lives the wrong way, because we think our own way is the only right way. Or perhaps we are the recipient of this judgment, we are the ones who are told we should be doing things differently.
The breath is a beautifully simple thing. In practicing sama vritti, we take in only what we need, no more, no less. We don’t hold back just as we don’t hold our breath. Then we let go of what we take in, without attachment, without overthinking. Each breath is fluid and seamless and free-flowing, because we are confident that one will follow another and another for some time to come. It’s a practice of living with the same ease. We take in exactly what we need, we hold nothing back, and we let go.
Next time you chant the mantra Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, keep in mind that this mantra includes all beings. This includes yourself. Allow yourself to breathe and move and live in such a way that honors your own beat. When you live your most authentic life, even when it takes a bit of an adjustment in the beginning, you’ll find ease, lightness, and effortlessness in the long run. When you are in alignment with who you really are, you are free.