You have often asked me if that loud sound you can hear in my yoga videos is my breathing. You’re absolutely right! That’s because when I do yoga, I practise the Ujjayi yoga breath.
In Sanskrit, the original language of yoga, ‘prana’ refers to the vital energy that exists in the universe and within us. Pranayama is the set of breath control techniques used in yoga practice to channel the flow of the prana, and one of these techniques is the Ujjayi breath.
This exercise consists of contracting the glottis in order to minimise the entry and exit of air, controlling the inhalation and exhalation. Something that helped me to understand this way of breathing is imagining that I am trying to fog up a mirror, exhaling through the mouth and uttering the sound “HAAA”, which causes this contraction in the throat. Keeping the glottis in this position, I breathe in and out through the nose, letting the air pass through the throat in a controlled and soft manner, without making too much effort, as occurs in Ujjayi. Some say that the sound produced by the Ujjayi breath has some similarities with the ebb and flow of the waves, and as a result some call it ‘ocean breath’. Using this technique I slow down and lengthen my breathing, which also helps me to synchronise my breath with the movement of the asanas (yoga postures) and obtain greater awareness and presence in my practice.
After practising yoga for so long the Ujjayi breath has become completely automatic for me in my Ashtanga Vinyasa self-practice. I also notice that when I practise other sports such as fitness I use this breath without realising, although it’s not suitable in these cases and I have to return to normal breathing.
If you want to introduce this technique, don’t despair if at the beginning it feels strange. Over time you’ll see that it becomes a way of breathing that you can enter and exit easily and swiftly. My advice is that you practice it without movement first, choosing a comfortable asana such as the lotus position, and gradually incorporate it into movement during your self-practice.
I hope this post helps you to progress in your yoga practice.
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