Ujayi breath — breath of fire — helps us burn away toxins in our system. Prana is the life force, also known as chi, ki, and the Force in various cultures. We inhale 'prana,' and to expand our capacity to draw in more life force we practice 'pranayama,' or perform breathing techniques designed to increase the flow of prana.
Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga. We need prana to battle the darkness of the ego and illuminate our conscience for 'samadhi,' an eternal state of bliss.
There are numerous pranayama exercises to expand one's prana. One breath that can be performed to improve prana is called the 'ujjayi breath,' meaning the breath of fire, or of victory. The ujjayi breath sounds like the breathing of Darth Vader from Star Wars, or like ocean waves, and is brought about by constricting the back of the throat to make a sound, both during inhaling and exhaling.
To practice the ujjayi breath, try fogging a mirror or glass in your hand. Try to recreate the sound that comes out with your mouth closed but your tongue down, so your mouth cavity is hollow. Practice inhaling and exhaling to a count of four each, with the mouth closed, inside hollow, making the sound. The inhale should be smooth and unhurried. The exhale should be deep and long.
This is the ujjayi breath!
Using the ujjayi breath during yoga asanas helps us regulate exercise in terms of length and vigour for each asana, as we want to achieve a rhythm that matches the four-count-breath. The sound helps us stay aware of the movement of the breath so it also serves in strengthening our concentration on the meditative practice of breathing.
Ujjayi breath is both energising and relaxing. Two mindful ujjayi breaths are all it takes to draw you away from the stress of an obsessive thought to the respite of your own space.
The breath should be both 'dirga' (long) and 'suksma' (smooth), according to the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Remember to enjoy the sensation of the inhale and enjoy the sensation of the exhale, thus creating joy with each breath.
Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed