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Season 6 - Episode 2

Ujjayi Pranayama Practice

15 min - Practice


We take a closer look at ujjayi breath. Kristin guides us through a practice of refining ujjayi with a focus on evening out the flow of the breath. You will feel calm and centered.
What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video

Oct 01, 2018
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The practice of ujjayi, pranayam, is a practice that we often hear in our asana classes. Why don't we take a closer look at what ujjayi actually is? So you might hear a student next to you doing this Darth Vader sounding breath, like resonating off the walls of the yoga studio. When it becomes, which is beautiful, but when it becomes more refined, it is hardly audible, maybe only audible to you, but probably not to your neighbor. When it gets really loud, it tends to get into the nose, like we're sniffing the breath.

That's not a very powerful breath. This ujjayi translates as victorious breath. So we're moving it down into the throat, and you can practice a couple of times with your mouth open to get the feeling of it, but then we'll close the mouth and see if we can still resonate that sound. So I'm going to lead you through a practice of refining the ujjayi breath, and we'll do it together. So find a comfortable seat, you can place your palms face down onto your knees or thighs, and when you're ready, let's close the eyes.

Before you start, just take a moment to find a before picture, just notice how you've placed your body. Notice the state of the mind or the emotional self, not having to change or fix it. And then notice how the breath is moving. As you're ready, begin to deepen the breath in and out through the nose. As you continue to deepen the breath, start to move the awareness down into the throat and finding a gentle hug of the vocal folds.

I always think of it like drinking a thick milkshake through a smaller straw. It's going to take more of your effort, but you can savor it for longer. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he states that there are three pathologies to the breath. By addressing the breath, we have a direct effect on the body and the mind. The first pathology is, it's too loud, he says.

Find now that you can refine the sound of the breath, this deeper breath should be just loud enough for you to feel it, perhaps to hear it, but no one around you would hear it, you're finding the sound of the breath. All right? The next pathology he says is that sometimes the inhale and exhale have an unequal relationship. So find that you can, if you're inhaling say for a count of six, you can exhale for a count of six or whatever your number is. So we're finding the sound, quiet ujjayi breath, as well as the equanimity of the inhale and exhale.

We'll do this for a few minutes together. Notice if you're speeding up just a little bit, you're going to feel that you're feeling that you're speeding up, just trying to get it over, slow down and luxuriate in the breath. Patanjali noticed that sometimes this third pathology appears where there's a, there's a little bit of a stutter in the breath or an involuntary gulp of breath, that the volume of breath taken in and let go is a little unsteady or turbulent. So for these last few minutes, further refining the breath, evening out the flow so the inhale leads without pause or hesitation to the exhale. The exhale leads without pause or hesitation to the inhale becomes a circular breath, or what my teacher calls pure breathing.

Please continue. And if you're struggling, try not to let go of your breath, try not to let go of your breath. Exhaling, try to relax a bit deeper, you don't have to try very hard, actually by relaxing the breath, it actually comes in slower and smoother on its own. Just a couple more minutes, refining the sound of the breath, the relationship of inhale to exhale and any pauses or hesitations or little stutters in the breath. Just a couple more minutes.

Okay. Now relax your breath. So no longer having to fuss or manipulate the breath in any way. Just relax the breath back into its natural rhythm. And observe the state of your body.

Maybe any changes in the sensation, a tingling, a warmth, somewhere in your form. Notice the state of the mind or the emotional self. Maybe the mind feels calmer, steady, or just somehow different than when you began. Just notice the gentle movement of breath in and out through the nose in its natural state. Feel free to remain here as long as you'd like.

It's a beautiful technique to lead you into a meditation practice. Or as you feel ready, you can bring your chin to your chest. You can flutter your eyes open, just letting the gaze fall at one point on the floor. And as you're ready, you can let the awareness move back out into your world. Namaste.


Kate M
beautifully meditative practice...
Kristin Leal
1 person likes this.
Thanks Kate !
Kate M
I'm studying the yoga sutras with my Sanskrit teacher, and we're currently looking at the 2nd pada. I can't find where Patanjali lists "three pathologies" of the breath. This might be a question of translation and interpretation. What translation/interpretation are you following here? (He talks about pranayama in 2.49... )
Kate M
Might the reference have been from Svatmarama's Hatha Yoga Pradipika? But there again, I'm not finding a list of 3 pathologies... again - translations can vary significantly...
Kristin Leal
Kate !! Im so embarrassed I misspoke! I was actually quoting my teacher who was referencing Swami Rama's book Path of Fire and Light not the Yoga Sutras! Looking at the Sutras one could make the case that trembling and unevenness of breath could be eluded to but not sound.... I'm really sorry I misspoke. Thank you so much for reaching out!!
Kate M
2 people like this.
Thanks for the clarification! It all made perfect sense, what you said, but coincidentally, I was studying the verses in the Sadhana Pada (Patanjali) with my teacher, and I just couldn't find anything like this there. Loving your videos! And I'm halfway through your book (very helpful and entertaining presentation!)!! When will Volume 2 be available?
Kristin Leal
1 person likes this.
Thanks Kate ! Volume 2 will be out February 2019!!! I'm super excited to share it!!
Kate M
1 person likes this.
I just finished reading through Vol 1(for the first time) yesterday : ) Looking forward to your new resource! I love the presentation: it's engaging and accessible for this neophyte anatomy geek!
Kristin Leal
1 person likes this.
you're the sweetest Kate :)
Kate M
1 person likes this.
AND I just got the amazing book Anatomy Trains from the library for a first look-through. Just fascinating perspective on the mystery of embodiment...
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