We breathe all day, every day, but sometimes we don’t even notice the process. One of the greatest gifts we receive from our yoga practice is the awareness of our breath. Bringing consciousness to the process of breathing is one of the easiest ways to root yourself into the present moment.
One of the most common breathing techniques in modern Vinyasa classes today is Ujjayi Pranayama, the Victorious Breath. This deep breathing exercise allows you to slow and smooth the flow of breath while quieting and focusing the mind.
Ujjayi breath sounds like a gentle wave, dragging along the back of your throat. Generally, it’s loud enough for your neighbor to hear, but not so loud that it strains your throat. It’s a great breathing technique to practice because it helps heat the body and gives the mind a job on which to focus.
As a beginner, follow these steps:
1. To begin your practice, find a comfortable seat. Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders.
2. Inhale through your nose, then open your mouth to exhale slowly as if you’re trying to fog a mirror. Try to create a slight contraction at the back of your throat and listen for a long "HA" sound.
3. Try this several several times, in through your nose and out through your mouth, before you try closing your mouth and exhaling through the nose with the same effect. Begin to direct the breath slowly across the back of your throat for both your inhale and exhale. Ideally, this will create a soft and audible hissing sound as you breathe.
Remember to be patient. Cultivating this type of awareness and control over the breath may take time. Though it’s hard enough to practice while sitting still, the next step is incorporating Ujjayi into your asana flow. With time, you’ll continue to improve while also experiencing the mental and physical deep breathing benefits of Ujjayi. Good luck!