This is a fantastic introduction to Ujiayi Breathing and the Bandhas with David Swenson, who I cherish and consider an outstanding teacher in the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition. It’s an old video, cute, but the information he conveys is valuable now as then and his instructions are clear and easy to follow. 7:38mins worth while your time.
Below the video you can read more about Ujjayi breath including some simple instructions on how to learn this breathing method. If you have any questions do let me know!
What is Ujjayi Breathing?
The breathing method used in Asthanga Vinyasa yoga and in many other yogic traditions is called Ujjayi breathing.
Ujjayi breath means “victorious breath”, pointing out its powerful quality to help the practitioner master a meditative state where he won over the dominance of his automatic, racing mind. Without proper breathing yoga becomes nothing more than an outward expression of physical movement. Whilst the asana (posture) practice grounds the yoga practitioner physically, Ujjayi breathing allows him to move into a calm state entering the subtle wonders of his inner world. The synchronization of breath and movement brings about a meditative flow.
Ujjayi breathing is characterized by an audibly hollow, deep, soft sound coming from your throat. It has been described as wind in the trees, a distant ocean, a cobra snake or, for the less poetic, Darth Vader from “Star Wars”. It is a diaphragmatic breathing technique, which first fills the lower belly, rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves into the upper chest and the throat. Ujjay breath is performed by creating a soft, hissing sound in the back of the throat while inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Inhale and exhale are the same length.
Learning Ujjayi Breathing
[box]1. Start by making your inhale and exhale deep and same length
2. Count slowly 1-2-3-4-5 on the inhale and on the exhale
Start learning the exhale:
3. Open your mouth and say “Hhhhaaammmm” at the exhale as though you are whispering
4. Repeat a few times, feeling the vibration and swirl of air in the back of your throat
5. Move on making the sound “Hhhhaaammmm” keeping your mouth closed on the exhale
6. Then try “Hhhhhaaaammmm”-ing without the sound
7. You want to create a deep breath at the top of your throat behind your nostrils, not at the tip of your nose
8. Technically you need to control your glottis
Learn the inhale:
9. Continue with your Ujjayi breathing on the exhale
10. On the inhale gently smile and try to create the same deep swirling sound[/box]
The main idea is to create a rhythm in your breath that will allow you to get into a meditative flow in your practice. In addition, your breath will tell you if you apply too much effort. When you notice your breath is forced, constricted or withheld you have gone beyond your limit. If you find yourself heavily involved in thoughts you might have forgotten to breath thoroughly.
Benefits in the practice and in your life
• Oxygenates the body and muscles
• Heats up the muscles, makes the tissue moist, prepares for stretching
• Allows you to control your energy levels to maintain the practice
• Feels balancing and calming, helps to detach from the racing thinking mind
• Creates a rhythm in the practice
• Helps to clear toxins out of the bodily systems
• Promotes awareness and grounded-ness