Without the breath, yoga is just a lot of bending.  With the breath, yoga transforms.  Ujjayi breath provides the  mind-calming rhythmic hum that  naturally moves the body from one moment to the next.  The sound of the Ujjayi breath reminds me of ocean waves crashing onto the shore, running back out to sea, and then crashing back into the shore again, and again.  So peaceful and relaxing, yet so full of strength and power.

Consider these simple  tips on correct yogic breathing from Lino Miele, who states:

Awareness (consciousness) of the breath is the basis of a correct practice of the asana (posture). Practice Ujjayi breathing. Keep the throat relaxed and open, and apply a slight closure of the glottis. The air that enters and exits will produce a sound; the quality of the Ujjayi breath should be gentle, deep and strong. The breath is complete when the lungs are either completely full or completely empty. A deep exhale ends below the navel. A deep inhale will expand the back and the thoracic cage, filling the area around the heart.

Though somewhat simple to describe, correct Ujjayi breathing takes persistent practice, usually with continual reminders to refocus on the breath.  Sometimes it’s tough to not rush through a practice, giving half breaths for each of the movements.  With Lino Miele’s breathing advice in mind, I recommend paying extra attention to feeling your lungs expand on inhale and contracting your lower abdominals upon exhale.  Imagine your torso as if it were a sponge filling up with water on inhale and wringing itself dry on exhale.

One last visual description of the breath from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki:

When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the ” I ” is extra. There is no you to say “I. ” What we call ” I ” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no ” I , ” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.

Breathe in, breathe out…Open door, shut door, open door…

6 comments

  1. Nice informative blog. I read on Lucky Everyday’s blog that there are two kinds of Yoga ……..The Indian one which requires a lots of patience, practice and dedication.Its called as setubandhasan – or a backward bend pose, with the help of a prop.The second kind of Yoga is the Irish one, its like a drunk Irishman doing the back posture, flopped dead drunk on a chair!

  2. Good article on breathing. Informative and good written, giving simple tips and yoga breathing method. I liked your article very much.. Please do write such good articles.

  3. tatah kshiyate prakasha avaranam, verse 2.52, Yoga sutras of Patanjali

    As clearly stated by Patanjali, the veil covering the inner illumination, is thinned and slowly diminished and disappears while the true self appears.

    By the practice if Ujjayi, we are able to bridge the gap between the physical body and the astral plane. Prana slowly but surely penetrates the through the Udana within the spine. While along its path, activating the divine shakti through the chakras.

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