New Yoga students often ask me for instructions on the “right” way to breathe. There is no single answer to that question since the optimal breathing pattern at any given moment depends on the type of practice. During an, for example, Ashtanga, Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow class you focus on a strong, active Ujjayji breath to create internal heat and during restorative classes a deep and calm breathing pattern is used to create a calm and serene state of being.
Optimal breathing patterns are the key to any yoga class, and not only that, but any life situation. Often we “forget” that we are actually breathing and have to remind us to “take a deep breath” and send some life into every cell of our body- or at least we get told to in Yoga classes. And that’s what is great about a Yoga class, right? To practice AWARENESS……
Sigh… now everyone.. take a deep breath here….
So, in this PART 1 of 2 “breathing posts” I want to talk about the Ujjayi breath and what it is all about. To start off, I would like to introduce you to THE Yoga anatomy guru Leslie Kaminoff. In the video below he describes WHY Ujjayi breathing is so useful and when we should use it.
- The Ujjayi breath is the breath of victory. In this type of pranayama, the lungs are fully expanded and the chest is puffed out.
- The sound of Ujjayi pranayama serves two purposes: One, it stimulates the nadis, or energy channels, in the sinuses and at the back of the throat, which, in turn, promotes mental clarity and focus. And two, it provides a sound to focus on, so that the mind can become more still.
Create a “voice” of its own
The inhalation should rub against the back of the nasal cavity and throat. During the exhalation, imagine you are saying ”ha” without the “a” and feel the breath rubbing against the frontal sinuses as it leaves the body. Both inhalation and exhalation must be done with the mouth closed, through the nostrils only. Finally, the friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal heat.
I often teach students to create an ocean-like sound, as you would be listening to the waves. Create a strong and conscious breathing pattern through the back of your throat and try to keep inbreath and outbreath the same length.
So that’s it: It is THAT easy I highly recommend everyone of you to try breathing in Uyyaji during Yoga and even throughout the day, whenever you need a break and want to destress and focus on the NOW. While it is not only relaxing for your mind, Ujjayi breathing massages your internal organs and encourages the detoxification process in the body.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness