Being one with your Ujjayi breath

What does it mean to be one with your breath? Do you find yourself sometimes questioning your strength during your asana? Does it even make sense to find strength with your breath to persevere through your self-practice or ashtanga led class? The answer is YES, your breath is your strength. So you see, I had challenged myself to enrol in a 200hr YTT and the first two weeks of training took place during Ramadan (Muslim’s fasting month) as a personal challenge to improve my health. I had come mentally prepared, sure enough it’s not as easy as I had pictured it in my thoughts when everyone else was drinking water in between the training to nourish their body and all I had was my breath. I was learning and experimenting different kinds of pranayama (Anuloma Viloma, Nadi Shodana, Sitkari, Ujjayi and Bhastrika) and as much as all of it sound enriching and nourishing, of course there is one that I love the most and that is Ujjayi breathing. The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of your throat to create some resistance to the passage of air.
For beginners, (1) start with your mouth open and try to say “Ha” as you inhale and exhale through your mouth, (2) progress further with your mouth closed and gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance that  creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out from your throat.
As reassuring as it sounds, it does take some practice to get the hang of it when you’re changing the way you breathe. My first few tries were failures and my throat was drying up especially during Ramadan but when its done properly, Ujjayi (translated as victorious) breathing should be both energising and relaxing for you to persevere during your practice. As you become one with your breath, you will realise that you find clarity in every depth of your being, from the way you feel, to the calmness of your thoughts during your practice. You probably didn’t know that your asana is the gateway to prepare your body to breathe and meditate, did you? So as you become steady and comfortable in your posture, you will slowly and surely achieve the state of peacefulness in your breath and your mind!
Be sure to maintain the length and smoothness of the breath as much as possible as if you can hear the ocean “inside” you! As long as you find a baseline Ujjayi breath in a pose that is not too strenuous, maintaining that quality of breath throughout the practice will be a piece of cake because some asanas require great effort, and you may begin to strain in your breath, so always be mindful of your breath and try to be one with your Ujjayi breath! Its a total game changer in my asana practice and I’m hooked!
Nura Ahmad

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