March…In Like a Lion – Simhasana Pranayama practice!

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March – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”

That’s right folks – March is here and the winter is slowly losing its grip as we transition towards the blue skies and sunshine of spring! Oh Joy! I don’t know about you guys, but winter time on the east coast has this great way of making things seem super heavy and dark both inside and out. As it pertains to my life on the mat, during February I found myself spending a lot of time in forward folds and savasana if you know what I mean. As March begins to roar, it’s time to prepare the body and mind for the lightness of the coming spring season – in like a lion and out like a lamb…what a better way to loosen up and welcome the blossming spring season into our lives then with some Simhasana Pranayama, aka Lion’s Breath,  practice!

Picture a regal lion lounging on the savanna, opening his mouth wide in a grand roar, tongue bared and stretched, mane shaking. This is the essence of Simhasana (sim-HAHS-ana) pranayama, also known as Lion’s Breath. It’s a slightly silly-looking practice, this Simhasana, and it’s pretty humbling the first couple of times you do it. Kids love Lion’s Breath precisely because it’s bit silly. Stretching, toning, and relaxing the muscles of your face, cooling the breath, Simhasana is fierce and fun. It’s a way of letting go of any staleness that we may be holding on to, clearing space as we roar our way into the vast potential that our future holds. A great practice for saying goodbye to winter and hello to spring!

Here’s how we do it:

1. Kneel down on the floor, bend your knees in vadrasana, and sit on the backs of your heels. If this is difficult place a blanket or other prop in the space between your heels and sit bones so that you have a grounded and comfortable seat.

2. Push the palms of your hands face down against your knees, spreading your fingers out like mighty claws. From this pushing down in the palms pull your spine up long from the pelvic floor straight through the crown of your head.

3. Breathe in deeply through your nose.

4. Exhale through your mouth sticking out your tongue: open your mouth wide like a roaring lion, letting a “haaaa” sound move with your breath from the back of your throat. Spread and stretch your tongue forward and down like you’re trying to reach the tip of your chin. You can also try this with the gaze (drishti) at the third eye center between the eyebrows.

5. Try this breath a few times. If your knees hurt sitting this way, you can also try sitting in a comfy cross-legged position.

6. Have fun! Embrace the lightness of being silly, and try it a couple of times!

Simhasana is a good pose to use to “clear the air,” so to speak, at or near the beginning of an asana or pranayama practice. So almost any pose would be appropriate to practice next. Enjoy!