Pranayama involves working with the breath. It is made up of two Sanskrit words: prana meaning life force; and ayama, to restrain or control the prana, implying a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered in order to produce specific results.
One of the most common breathing techniques is Ujjayi (or “victorious” breath). It helps make the breath long and smooth, and also helps focus the mind on the yoga practice.
The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.
The key to Ujaii breathing is relaxing, and making just enough effort to produce a pleasing sound, but not so much force it begins to grate. To get in the mood, you can try cupping the ears first and listening to the sound in your throat as you breathe in and out.
Once you can make a similar sound without the ears covered lying down or sitting, then you can try and use Ujaii with the inhale and exhale in postures such as cat and downward dog.
Below you will find some reminders of our yoga class this week. After a standing warm up sequence we came to the floor to practice ujaii breath, and then we tried using it with a sequence that included cat and downward dog.
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