If you have ever been to a yoga class, then you have heard and been slightly intimidated by the incredible deep breathing going on in the room. As soon as you walk into the room and begin to unroll your mat, you can hear other students breathing from the other side of the room. If it was a beginner class, your instructor may have given you some brief instructions about how to breathe like a yogi. However, there were probably many other things on your mind, and it may have been confusing. Since you’re probably wondering how to accomplish yogic breath like a pro; this article offers a less time-sensitive approach to learning how to master your Ujjayi (or yogic) breathing.
Ujjayi breathing is done in asana-based yoga. “Asana” is Sanskrit for “pose” or “posture.” Most of western yoga is asana-based yoga, so this is likely the style of breathing you’ve heard in class.
The Ujjayi breath is performed through your nose on both the inhale and exhale. Allow your diaphragm to suck your breath deep down into your belly. Your stomach should stick out while you are breathing this deeply. Place your hands on your lower back and imagine that you are pulling your breath all the way down into your hands, as if you can push your hands with the expansion of your lungs. That sensation will allow for a deep and controlled breath that feels comfortable. Continue this for 3-5 breaths. Once you are comfortable with deep nasal breathing, you can begin to incorporate the more technical aspects.
Imagine you are about to yawn. Imagine that feeling of the roof of your mouth lifting up and backwards. Take a deep breath through your nose –playing around with the positioning of the roof of your mouth– until you can hear your breath in your ears. It should be more of an internal sound than an external sound. If you are still struggling with the internal sound, try imagining that you have nostrils coming out of your cheekbones. It sounds funny, but it might be what makes it work for you. Once you do it correctly you will know! You can sort of feel it in your ears and in your head.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right away! Take your time to find it. It’s like riding a bike; once you learn how to do it you will always know how to do it. The reason the Ujjayi breath is so important in yoga is because it gives you something specific to focus on. Because the Ujjayi breath echoes in your ears, it sort of becomes the music that you move to and determines the rhythm that you move from pose to pose to. It adds an extra element of energy as well. Because you are fully present with the movement of your breath in your lungs; you become one with yourself.
There is no need to be loud externally; you just need to be able to hear yourself. Some people are louder than others and that’s perfectly okay. Play around with your yogic breath and find your own inner rhythm. It is worth the practice!