How we breathe plays an important part of learning how to practice Pranyama. The 'Ujayi' breath is a technique that can be used throughout most Pranayama breathing exercises and also when practising Asana (postures).
Ujayi breath is one of the classical pranayamas and is very good for the removal of phlegm, mucus, cold and damp from the body. Ujjayi breathing involves contracting the throat slightly and this in turn creates heat in the throat region. As the hot air that passes through into your lungs it will dry up any mucus that may have built up.
It also allows the practitioner to control the breath for longer periods.
We try to create a sound in the throat when breathing in and out. To find the muscle used to contract the throat, think of the muscle used to swallow, clear the throat, or cough: it is the same muscle. So instead of using facial muscles to draw breath in and out we start to use the throat muscles allowing us to have more control,
The easiest way to do this is to take a word and change the sound of the word to a whisper. For example, change the “Ha” sound from normal volume into a whisper whilst still breathing in and out.
The partial closing of the throat helps to elongate the breaths by giving the air a smaller passage to pass through. This naturally then generates the heat.
Use the following steps to learn how to control the correct muscles for Ujjayi breath:
a) Engage the throat first by making an audible “Ha” sound on an exhalation with the mouth open.
b) Then, with the mouth still open, drop the sound to a steady whisper but keep the throat engaged and the voice box locked in that position.
c) Breathe in and then out with the mouth open and whispering the steady “Ha” sound, keeping the throat engaged and voice box locked.
d) Continue, but with the mouth closed, and breathing through the nostrils, using the same muscles to keep the throat engaged and voice box locked.
This technique can be used simply on its own by doing simple in and out breathing, try counting to 5 on inhalation, pausing for a moment, then exhaling for 5 again. Try a few cycles, you will be amazed how calm and focussed you can become.
It can also be adopted when practising any other Pranayama breathing exercises that require breathing through the nose.
Using for longer periods can cause some dryness in the throat so take very small sips of water or a few drops of olive oil in the throat can also help.
I also find using this technique whilst practising asanas can really help, by being able to control the breath means we can take more oxygen in as we are able to control and slow down our bpm (breaths per minute).
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