The Power of Ujjayi Breath: Enhancing Your Yoga Practice with Controlled Breathing

Yoga is a practice that combines physical movement with breathing techniques, helping individuals to find calm, focus, and overall vitality. One such breathing technique that is commonly used in yoga practices, especially in vinyasa or flow-based classes, is ujjayi breath. This type of breathwork involves a slight constriction of the back of the throat, creating a soft “ocean” sound in the back of the throat as we inhale and exhale through the nose. Ujjayi breath is also known as “victorious breath” or “diagrammatic breathing” and has numerous benefits for both the body and mind.

Improving Concentration and Endurance

Ujjayi breath is known to improve concentration and endurance while increasing the ability to flow gracefully. As we slow down the rhythm of each breath, it has a soothing effect on our nervous system. This, in turn, releases tensions in our body, helping us to feel more relaxed. This slow and deep style of breathing strengthens our lungs and diaphragm, while allowing a deeper intake of oxygen and full expulsion of carbon dioxide, thus enriching the blood.

Controlled Breathing

To breathe softly and calmly requires more control than being loud. You need to slow down the passage through which the air travels to take longer breaths. The narrower the tunnel, the longer you will take to fill up completely with air. Ujjayi breath requires a particular type of breathing that involves control and focus, and its goal is to create a smooth, even flow of breath while also helping to cultivate a sense of focus and concentration.

Synchronization of Movement and Breath

Ujjayi breath is commonly used in yoga practices, especially in vinyasa or flow-based classes. It can help us synchronize our movements with our breath, creating a sense of flow and ease in our practice. It can also help us to stay focused and present as we pay attention to the sound and rhythm of our breath.

Incorporating Breathwork into Your Practice

To incorporate ujjayi nto your yoga practice, start by focusing your attention on your breath. Take deep, slow breaths, allowing your belly to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Once you have established a steady breath, begin to incorporate ujjayi breathing by slightly constricting the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale through your nose, creating a soft “ocean” sound in the back of your throat. As you move through your yoga practice, focus on synchronizing your movements with your breath, allowing your breath to guide your movement and flow.

Focus Intention: What seed are you tending? What roots are you nourishing? Bring your attention back to the earth. Start with a strong foundation from the ground up. Go inside, inhale nourishment. On your exhale; let the tension go and dissolve into the earth, let go everything you are ready to let go.

Yoga Sequence for Incorporating Breathwork

Here is a yoga sequence that incorporates both ujjayi and deep belly breathing:

  1. Inhale, cow exhale, Downward Dog 3 times.
  2. Wide leg Downward Dog/ adho mukha shvanasana, hold for 5 breaths.
  3. Inhale, Downward Dog on tip toes (lift heel), Exhale heel to floor.
  4. Inhale flat back, exhale round spine into forward fold 5 times.
  5. Inhale Standing tall, reach arms up, exhale, chair pose/ Utkatasana.
  6. Inhale, chair pose, reach arms up, exhale reach arms back palms up
Mountain pose/ Tadasana: Meditate on the feet; your connection with the earth. Strong and stable foundation, allowing spaciousness in the spine. Visualize the exchange of nourishment from the ground and feel calm.

Classic Sun Salutation

  • Low lunge/Anjaneyasana, inhale reach arms up, exhale hand in prayer pose 3X
  • Half split/ Ardha Hanumanasana, inhale cow to exhale cat 3-5 X

Flow 1

  • Crescent lunge/ Anjaneyasana: cactus arms 3X
  • Inhale reach arms up exhale lean forward thumbs up back 3X
  • Humble Warrior, also know as devotional warrior pose, bound warrior pose, or silver surfer pose/ Baddha Virabhadrasana 3-5 breath
  • Pyramid pose/ Parsvottanasana cat & cow 3-5 X, hold Pyramid 3-5 breaths
  • Low lunge, opposite hand to the floor, reach other arm up, hold 3-5 breaths
  • Plank lower to your belly, waterfall Cobra/ Bhujangasana
    Repeat flow other side

Flow 2

  • 1 leg Dog, Warrior 2 inhale extend arms out, exhale hand in prayer pose
    Goddess pose/ Utkata Konasana (“Utkata” — meaning “powerful” or “fierce” “Kona” — meaning “angle”) inhale reach arms out, exhale hand in prayer
  • Wide leg forward fold/ Prasarita Padottanasana with hands interlace behind back
    Repeat flow other side
  • Low Squat/ Malasana
  • Butterfly/ Baddha Konasana
  • Head to knee forward bend/Janu Sirsasana (1 leg forward fold)
  • Half Lord of the Fishes /Ardha Matsyendrasana

Seated Spinal Twist/ArdhaMarsyendrasana
A flexible mind and an inflexible spine can rarely be found together. If the body is tied in a knot, so are the mind and emotions. However, with sufficient depth of insight it can be recognized that what had been twisted can also be untwisted. To unwind not only affects the spine but also clears the vision. If you shift your foundation and compensate, then you are twisting to create an impression. How can I be straight? You want the body to be flexible and supple. Don’t you also want your mind to be flexible and supple? The twisting postures lead to introspection. Ask yourself: “What immobilizes me, prevents me from adapting?”

Shavasana symbolizes the death of the ego and the promise of awakening to an enlightened state of consciousness. Death gives us a sense of purpose that can inspire us to make good use of the time we have on earth. With continued practice, the senses are gradually withdrawn and become still. The best sign of a good Shavasana is a feeling of deep peace and pure bliss; from relaxation to surrender. Surrender is an essential action for anyone who wishes to lead a spiritual life. In that state of peace and quiet and inner harmony, one can perceive a vision of the Light that is present within.

Your whole mind should be on it
When you do a thing, your whole mind should be on it. Success depends on your application of the mind. Without that concentration, it’s a half-hearted job. You cannot achieve success in anything that way. That is one reason for practicing meditation: to train the mind to stay focused on one thing at a time. Nothing is impossible for the mind. When the mind is calm and clean it can get all the ideas. You are what you think. As you think, so you become. Thoughts are very important. Live life as a creator, knowing that you have the power within you to create whatever it is you most want to see in the world.