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Season 1 - Episode 11

Lesson 4: Ujjayi and Tapas

5 min - Tutorial


We explore the importance of building transformative heat in our practice and try out Ujjayi breathing.
This lesson is designed to go along with Practice 4.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Nov 01, 2017
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So, welcome to lesson four. So in our fourth practice together, we start to look at some forward-facing postures and some heat-building, heat-generating postures. So what's the importance of building heat in our yoga practice and why would we do it? So the yogis believe that generating heat or tapas helps to create and stoke the fire of transformation and change, and it's nice to try new things, right? So you might find as you move through your practice, the heat helps to generate or inspire some courage, some confidence, a sense of, ah, this feels amazing, this feels good, right?

Trying new things, noticing how it feels in the body. And so yoga, we're working to really retrain our nervous system in a sense of finding ease within effort. For example, when we're balancing on one leg in tree pose, where can we find a bit more ease as we're working with our concentration, as we're standing on one leg and working on that stability? Another example is in warrior two. When we open our legs wide and we're holding a pose, where can we find that ease through the shoulders, through the face, right?

Ease within effort. So we're not just burning ourselves out or stressing ourselves out, but finding that balance to really retrain and nourish our nervous system. So one of the primary tools or techniques we'll explore is the ujjayi breath as we move through our practice. So the ujjayi is the victorious lengthening or the stretching of the breath. And why would we do this?

Well, it helps to not only stimulate the nervous system and that sense of inspiration, but it also helps to really soothe our nervous system. So let's try it out together. So bring your hand in front of your face, and it's as if you're fogging a mirror on the exhale. So let's inhale together and then exhale like you're fogging the mirror in the bathroom or in the car window. Let's do it again.

You all get a sense of that breathing in through the nose and then lengthening the exhalation. So let's try that, but this time closing the mouth. So we'll inhale through the nose, fogging the mirror on the exhale with the mouth and the lips closed. Sometimes it's kind of referred to as the Darth Vader breath. You know what I'm talking about?

And you might begin to hear the sound in the back of the throat or that ocean breath, a sound of the ocean, the tide moving in and out. Let's do it one more time. And let's try it with our hands on our ribcage. So with the inhale, you might begin to feel your lungs stretching into your hands, into the ribs. And then exhale, there's a relaxation through the belly and you might feel that it draws up and in.

Let's see. Let's see together. So we'll inhale through the nose and exhale. With the inhale, exhale. Try it again as you inhale, feeling the, perhaps the ribcage expand into your hands so the breath is moving down and wide.

And then exhale, the hands draw towards each other. Let's see if we can feel that in the back of our body. So bring your thumbs on the back of the ribcage and with an inhale, can you feel the breath maybe in the back of the ribcage, the back of the lungs. Let's try it one more time. And take a moment to just notice how you feel after that.

Okay, so I'll invite you throughout the practice to work with the ujjayi, work with the breath and notice how you feel, especially as we move through these more heated postures like the lunge and warrior one. Try it out, let me know how it goes and I'll see you in the next practice.


Sandra Židan
Great lesson about breathing! Thanks, Alana!
Alana Mitnick
Thank you for joining me, Sandra Ž. So glad you enjoyed this lesson on breathing! Stay close. Love, Alana 

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