Tim Miller on pranayama and yoga’s ‘Baby Huey’ syndrome

Tim Miller was featured Tuesday in an online Yoga Journal piece on pranayama. You can check it out right here.

Tim, via his site

I’m particularly happy that it allowed Tim to spread his “Baby Huey” story a bit more widely:

“My first American yoga teacher, a guy named Brad Ramsey, used to say that doing an asana practice without a pranayama practice developed what he called the Baby Huey syndrome,” says Ashtanga teacher Tim Miller. “Baby Huey was this big cartoon duck who was very strong but kind of stupid. He wore a diaper. Basically what Brad was trying to say was that asana will develop your body but pranayama will develop your mind.”

This piece actually strikes me as timely (well, for me) given my thinking lately about how yoga has gotten a “soft” reputation, which really is just a way of wondering about other styles of asana. Now here’s a whole piece on different approaches to pranayama. Surely they can’t all be too easy — because pranayama is hard.

The article, via Tim, delves more into Ashtanga’s angle on the practice of breathing. But what I have to highlight is the description of Ashtangis:

Join a workshop with students from different yoga traditions and you can pick out Ashtanga practitioners with your eyes closed. They’re the ones who sound like Star Wars’s Darth Vader even when they’re standing in Tadasana. That’s because they’re practicing Ujjayi breathing, which is carried all the way through the vigorous series of postures in this tradition.

Now, I’m sure there are those of you who are virtually waving your hands and saying, “We’ve learned we aren’t supposed to be doing Ujjayi breathing.”

Call it what you will. It is a deep, measured breathing. And that leads Tim to be able to say this: “Since the Ashtanga practice is very breath-oriented, in a sense you’re doing a kind of pranayama from the moment you begin the practice.”

I think that statement sums up one of the most critical differences about Ashtanga. It really is close to moving meditation, as opposed to a flow class or something similar that is directed by a teacher (thus breaking the meditative mood). I’m still have a lot of trouble translating my morning practice to evening meditation, but I have hope.

And that’s actually a pretty big improvement on this front.

Finally, word on the Confluence front: We hear that the schedule should be out shortly. Registration (as we mentioned before) will be in the Fall — September or October.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Tim Miller on pranayama and yoga’s ‘Baby Huey’ syndrome”

  1. Great post, just wanted to point out that some vinyasa flow/ power yoga emphasize the ujay breathing. Personally i cant fathom not doing the ujay breath. It’s the cornerstone of yoga.

    1. Yes, yes — I don’t want to be unfairly accused of misrepresenting some other asana styles. (There are plenty of opportunity to fairly accuse me of that.) I definitely was taught ujjayi in some flow classes.


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