2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses (2015)
THE UJJAYI BREATH
Breath is an essential staple of every yoga practice. By focusing on the breath, a yogi is able to stay in the present moment. Since the breath is neutral, a yogi neither seeks to avoid it, nor is she eager to chase it. Proper and continuous breath helps clear the mind of distracting thoughts and to remain in the present moment with one-pointed concentration.
Deep, conscious breathing also slows down the heartbeat and activates the parasympathetic nervous response, which soothes the nervous system, and allows the muscles to relax into the stretches and stay strong in the strength-based yoga poses. Maintaining deep, fluid breathing will help transform your yoga practice into a moving meditation.
Ujjayi pranayama is one of the most commonly used breathing techniques in every yoga practice. Ujjayi means “victorious” in Sanskrit. When practicing this breathing technique, a yogi creates what can be described as the “ocean sound” in the back of the throat by gently squeezing the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords in the throat). You’re aiming to create a breathy and whispery sound at the back of the throat. The sound is often compared to the sound Darth Vader makes when breathing! In order to practice ujjayi breath, first sit in a comfortable position. Inhale through the nose and, as you exhale, imagine you are trying to fog up a glass. Try to inhale with the same sound. Once you feel like you have an understanding of the ujjayi breath technique, seal your lips in order to prevent the throat from drying out. (A dry throat usually leads to coughing and drinking water, which distracts you from your yoga practice.) Inhale and exhale through the nose, while still maintaining the sensation in the throat of trying to fog up a glass.
Using breath to facilitate poses:
· Keep your breath deep and rhythmic.
· If your breathing becomes restricted or choppy, there is a good chance that you are pushing yourself unnecessarily. In this case, you should ease off the pose and return to a place that promotes smooth and fluid breathing.
· The body lifts up and lengthens on the inhale. For example, lift up from a forward bend into a mountain pose on the inhale, using the inhale to lengthen the limbs of the body and the spine. Use the exhales to go deeper into the pose.