Pranayama

Breath Control in Yoga

Breath control in yoga is also referred to as Practicing Pranayama. It means to control our internal pranic energy or just breath of life. Apana means the elimation of breath, this is also the alternate of Prana. With every intake of breath of life, we also eliminate the toxins within the depths of our respiratory system.

There are several different breathing techniques in yoga that are practiced. By practicing them we are able to feel the movement of prana, some of them are rejuvenating and relaxing exercises, most of them are aimed at replenishing fresh oxygen to our lungs and connecting our mind with the body.

Ujjayi breath

Ujjayi which means victorious in Sanskrit, therefore Ujjayi breathing means victorious breath or to gain mastery. Unlike other breathing techniques which is done before or after the asanas, Ujjayi breath is sometimes called the ‘ocean breath’ is being practiced throughout in the Ashtanga Vinyasa series of yoga.

It is a diaphragmatic breath that with every inhalation of breath, it first fills the lower belly to the lower rib cage and rising up into the upper chest and throat.

Both inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose with the mouth close at all times. And as with every breathe a sound air is made as it passes through the narrowed epiglottal passage hence the name ‘ocean breath’. The length and speed of each inhalation and exhalation should be maintained and controlled at the same even rhythm as the breath in samavritti. It is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening of the breath, this is the purpose of ujjayi breathing.

In Ashtanga vinyasa, ujjayi breath is frequently used. This helps us to maintain a rhythm for our practice, to take in oxygen and at the same time help build energy to maintain our practice, while clearing toxins out of our body system. The breathing is especially important during the transition in and out of the asanas for it helps us stay present, grounded and self aware in the practice. This adds to the meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the practice, instilling endurance that enhances a flowing practice.

Benefits of Ujjayi   

The Ujjayi breathing allows us to practice full deep breaths when face with a challenging posture in the physical practice, this allows us to relax our mind and breath and go in deeper to the posture. Therefore we can just stay quanimous when faced with the challenges of our daily lives.

Ujjayi increases internal body heat. The breathing regulates the heating of the body. Inhalation and exhalation increases the friction of the air passes through both lungs and our throat, generating internal body heat. It is akin to a massage for our internal organs. This prepares our body for the asana practice as the core becomes warm from the inside, making the stretching safer while the inner organs can be cleansed and detoxed all at the same while.

Ujjayi breathing allows our mind to focus on the breathing itself and not wonder around, it is a subconscious mindful breathing exercise. This reduces distractions and allows us to remain focus and concentration in the practice. Improving concentration in the physical practice while being engrossed in the Ujjayi breathing will allow us to remain in poses for longer periods of time.

Lastly, Ujjayi allows us to surrender into a resting posture as our breathing remains as even and smooth in the postures as when we rest. It allows us to take a step back of our ego and let go of our ego in the practice, and just practice as much as we can with the best of our efforts and within reach of our body limits.

Practicing Ujjayi more often will help to calm and relax the mind and body. There is a saying ‘ life is one big adventure ‘, so perhaps the challenges we faced in our daily life will no longer be hurdles but more of an adventure.

Evangeline Tay