Ujjayii Pranayama - the Heart of the Practice

To breathe is to live and yoga does not exist without the breath.  In ashtanga vinyasa, every posture start with the breath and ends with the breath and every movement made is with the breath.

Finding the natural link between the breath and movement is an important aspect of asana practice. The quality of the breath during asana informs the mind about the practice and we can use this consciously to make the necessary adjustments.  The breath guides our movement and links each posture in the sequence.  One inhalation, one movement, one exhalation, one movement.  Inhale, lengthen, exhale release.   This way the breath becomes the link between the physical and the vital life force (prana) within us all.   

Ujjayii Breathing

Ujjayii breathing (Victorious breath or psychic breath) is  the specific breathing technique normally used in the ashtanga practices.   

Ujjayii has many purposes. 

1)    To breathe during the practice.

2)    When the mind wanders in yoga, the sound of Ujjayii can bring the mind back to the breath.  Ujjayii allows for a focus and concentration and a stillness of the mind. 

3)    Awareness of the quality of the breath can be used to question the practice.  If the breath sounds shallow or forced, the practice may need to be adjusted.  If the breath is even and smooth, the practice is even and smooth.

4)    Ujjayii breathing (along with the bandhas) help maintain an inner heat throughout the practices.

5)    The time spent in postures is regulated by five ujjayii breaths allowing stillness and focus in each posture.

6)    It has a calming effect on entire nervous system, especially it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.

With awareness of Ujjayii breathing, movement and stillness become a meditative experience.

How to Practice Ujjayii

·         Sit in any comfortable position.  Keep you back straight and lengthened. 

·         Bring your awareness to your inhalation and exhalation.

·         Place your fingertips on your collarbone and draw the breath towards your fingertips.

·         Feel your throat contract slightly and begin to hear soft sound that of your breath resonating in your mind and senses.  Don’t be afraid of the sound.  Stay with it.  Stay gentle.

·         Once you are comfortable with the Ujjayii technique.  You can begin to add a count. 

·         Take a long slow breath in for a count of five

·         Exhale to a count of five

·         Repeat three times

·         Release the technique and sit quietly for a few moments.