In part one of this series we covered the importance of the breath in providing prana or vital energy to the physical and subtle layers of the body. Flowing through nadi’s or energy channels throughout the body and through energy centers known as chakra’s the quality of the breath sets the tone for the state of the mind and body. We learned that a when we have a regular pranayama practice we can enhance the quality and quantity of our breath, clear blocked energy channels and feel more balanced, calm, and focused. We covered the first of three breathing practices, called Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing for balancing. In part two we covered Dirga Swasam or complete breath practiced to help calm the body and mind.
In this installment we cover Ujjayi or Victory Breath for improved focus.
Victory Breath for Focus
This breathing technique (called ‘Ujjayi’ in yoga which translated means ‘victory breath’) and is most often practiced just before and along with an asana (movement) practice. Victory breath creates an alpha or relaxed state of mind increasing blood flow to the muscles and connective tissue. Victory breath warms the breath as it flows through the lungs, warming the blood, which warms the body. It also builds stamina in the heart and lungs while also calming the mind and emotions, giving rise to a sense of lightness and peace, making us feel a part of a greater whole.
- Inhale and exhale through the nose, keeping the mouth closed.
- Make a slight constriction at the base of the throat, pulling the breath in through the back of the throat until you hear a gentle, hollow sound, as the air draws over the vocal cords sounding like waves of the ocean rolling in and out. Imagine you are inhaling and exhaling through the base of the throat and not just the nose.
- Inhale to a count of 4 or 6 (filling abdomen, chest and upper heart).
- Slight pause at the end of the inhale.
- Exhale to a count of 4 or 6 emptying the chest, abdomen drawing the navel gently toward the spine
- Continue for 3-5 minutes or throughout your yoga practice.
As with all breathing exercises, always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema. It is best to seek the guidance of a qualified and knowledgeable teacher when beginning any breathing practice. Stop the exercise if you become faint or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing.