In most Western yoga classes we use a form of Pranayama breath named Ujjayi. Without diving too far into the beautifully complex and confusing world of Sanskrit, Ujjayi translates to “victorious breath”, which explains its purpose quite well. The vital connection made between the mind and body by the breath is crucial to any yoga practice.

The Ujjayi breath is a slow six-count breath with deep inhalations through the nose and exhalations out the mouth. This breath is often referred to as the “oceanic” breath, but more often tends to sound like Darth Vader. As you deepen into your yoga practice it becomes a breath in and out of the nose with a gentle constriction in the back of the throat (although there is always one person who can keep up the zealous Darth Vadar breathing).

Focusing on the breath calms the mind and creates concentration throughout your physical practice. The Ujjayi breath is energizing and calming, but has more benefits than most people know. This breath strengthens the immune system, reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, promotes stimulus to the cardio-vascular system and pushes toxins out of the body.

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Perfecting the Ujjayi breath can be challenging so here are 5 relatively simple rules when it comes to using and developing your breath:

Rule 1: Practice often with Purpose

Practicing breathing techniques can feel uncomfortable. Acknowledge differences you feel and use them to refine your practice as you push your limits.

Rule 2: Let your breath guide you

The breath is a great measurement of how your body is taking to a posture. If your breath becomes hard or uneven, ease off. If your breath is clear and strong push yourself deeper. Use it to gauge how your body is feeling during any given practice.

Rule 3: Be Consistent

Inhale when extending, exhale when contracting. This will be the natural asana (flow) of the class and poses will become much easier as you begin to track your breath with each movement and regulate your own heat. The breath connects the mind and body and will bring you stability and vitality. Regulation of the breath can bring you to different states of mind; you will find simple subconscious meditation through concentration.

Breathing in yoga: 5 simple rules_02

Rule 4: Be Aware

Breathing is good for you! This deep breathing forces old stale air out of the lungs and fills them with new air. Ujjayi uses the full capacity of the lungs rather than our daily breath which usually only uses between 50% and 75% of their full capacity. Take your newfound depth and awareness off your mat and into the world.

Rule 5: Be Patient

Normal people are not good at everything. Yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

As we all know yoga is much more than just a physical practice. The breath is no different. It develops and evolves as our practice grows. The focus and concentration created through the breath can be carried with us off of our mats and channeled into different aspects of our lives. Weather it is patience or focus or energy or even serenity, the Ujjayi Pranayama breath will bring you balance and mindfulness both on and off your mat.

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