• karenwhitfieldyoga

In Praise of Ujjāyī

If you haven’t heard of it before you have probably noticed some people around you in a class breathing noisily and wondered what it’s all about: the Ujjāyī technique is a way of breathing in and out through the nose while controlling the breath in the throat and supporting with the diaphragm, making a soft purring sound on both inhale and exhale. The throat regulates the flow of the breath and the diaphragm provides the power against that resistance, creating a smooth controlled flow and engaging muscles of the pelvis, abdomen and thorax.

Why is this so important?

In the beginning it is experienced as a sound, the smoothness and quality of flow providing a point of observation for the body and the mind. With Ujjāyī we can gain an awareness of the breath at many levels: the nose, throat, chest, back, abdomen and pelvis. On the inhale we expand to fill every space in the body, and on exhale we support and stabilise. In this way the breath can lift us, support us and hold us.

Ujjāyī is a simple technique that is often overlooked, a fundamental part of the viniyoga approach. It is an integral part of the Āsana (posture) practice as well as being a stand-alone technique that can help to ground and support you, instantly pulling the mind into the present and bringing awareness to the whole body.

Breath in posture provides the link between the external and the internal, a bridge between the body and the mind that is the key to what makes Yoga different to exercise. Within an Āsana practice Ujjāyī is used to control both the speed and power of movement and the quality of static work: The sound gives us a window into whether we have crossed the boundary between effort and force, as the flow of breath becomes uneven, is interrupted or stops completely.

As the breath develops, becoming longer and stronger, the movements in and out of postures can be slowed down allowing attention to detail, building strength and the ability to integrate different groups of muscles. Within static postures the quality of the breath dictates our ability to stay effectively in the posture and provides a source of focus.

However no postures are required for you to benefit from Ujjāyī! A few focussed breaths at any point in the day can provide a moment of presence and awareness that is always available.

Offered with thanks to my teacher Paul Harvey, inspired by our discussion of the following post from his website:


#yoga #yogalife #yogapractice #exeterlovesyoga #yogaeverydamnday #mindfulness #wellbeing #breathwork #pranayama

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