Ujjayi Breath

yoga + sea

Ujjayi Breath is a great practice for relaxation – calming for the mind and soothing for the body.  It is also great treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Please be patient with yourself when learning this practice as it’s not the easiest practice to do.

Sit in a comfortable position, the spine erect and the eyes softly closed.  Allow the breath to become steady, calm and relaxed; breathing through the nostrils and encouraging the breath to be full.  Don’t force breath in or out, let it come naturally and feel the ‘ends’ of each inhale and exhale.

Bring the awareness to the throat and gently contract the glottis and continue to inhale and exhale with awareness at the throat.  (If you are new to this practice, try exhaling through the mouth making a ‘haaaa’ sound.  This will enable you to discover the contraction of the glottis. Tilting the chin down slightly can also help.)

Allow the breath to smooth, deep and slow – it will sound like baby snoring or waves breaking on the sand.  Explore the gentleness of this breath – don’t feel as though you are gripping at the throat.

When established with the practice, with each inhale and exhale take your awareness to the abdomen, chest and throat in turn as they expand and contract to encourage full yogic breathing.

Ujjayi is a wonderfully calming breath and can help to relieve insomnia.  Simply practice in bed in shavasana when sleep is being illusive.

Practice for 5 – 10 minutes each day – great for calming the body and mind before asana practice, meditation or relaxation.

The 5 Vayus – Simple Explanation & Meditation

prana_vayus

Through the exploration of the breath, ancient yogis created an awareness of the vital life force or Prana that flows within us as air.  They noticed more subtle directions and energetic qualities and divided the different aspects of this flow of air into 5 Vayus or ‘winds’.  With practice one can come to recognise and have mastery over these 5 winds, but even with some simple knowledge and appreciation we can still benefit from using them to improve our inward focus and subtle awareness of the body and breath.

You can read the following as a simple meditation: read it through and work with the breath directions; then softly close your eyes and take your awareness to each centre and recall the name and influences of each Vayu…

Sit comfortably and feel the solid earth beneath the body, allow a sense of groundedness to fill up your being – gratitude to Mother Earth for all that she brings us – the sunshine, the rain and the wind.

As your next breath develops feel the chest expand, continue to inhale deeply as the ribcage grows to the front, sides and back.  Here the wind is known as the prana Vayu.  This governs the intake, inspiration, propulsion and forward momentum of our being and flows in the chest area.  As you exhale, take the awareness down to the lower abdomen, squeezing all the air out and resting your awareness finally in the pelvis.  This flow is known as apana Vayu, flowing in the pelvis and governing elimination, downward and outward movement.  On the next inhale bring the focus to the navel and feel the width of the waist expand, here the flow is known as samana Vayu: the movement is side to side, like a pendulum, and governs inner absorption, discernment and consolidation.

Keeping the focus in this navel area, allow your awareness to move from side to side.  Absorbing and consolidating this information:- prana Vayu – chest, inward: apana Vayu – pelvis, down and outward: samana Vayu – navel, pendulum, consolidation. Repeat this if you’d like to.

When you feel ready, as you next inhale move the awareness up to the throat, neck and head.  On exhalation feel the air moving down the arms and legs and out through the finger tips and toes.  This circulation of air is known as udana Vayu and governs growth, speech, expression and movement.  The 5th airflow is called vyana Vayu and pervades the whole body, it governs the circulation and provides a boost if another Vayu is exhausted.  So, udana Vayu is flowing in the extremities – breathe in feel the air filling up the head and breathe out feel it circulating out through fingers and toes.  Finally breathing in as though the whole body were an empty vessel… feeling a sense that the vyana Vayu is flowing freely and smoothly throughout your whole being.

Close the eyes softly and begin in the chest – work your way through the 5 Vayus to feel balanced, calm and refreshed – just as the wind refreshes the land around us.