This week we will explore Ujjayi breath, and Nadhi Sodhnaha. Two breathing techniques that any beginner yoga practitioner can learn and practice on their own.
Ujjayi translates to victorious breath. It is an audible breath, sounding like the waves of the ocean. The breath is concentrated at the back of the throat as you inhale and exhale. Ujjayi soothes the nervous system and calms the mind, while relaxing the psyche. Practiced traditionally it is a heating breath.
Find a comfortable seat; hold your right hand in front of your face, palm facing you. Now exhale saying “haaaaa” like you are fogging up a mirror (your palm being the mirror), the mouth is open. You can begin to feel the presence of the breath at the back of the throat here. Next imagine that you are inhaling, “haaaaa” as if you were fogging up a mirror at the back of the throat. Now practice “fogging up the mirror” with the mouth closed. You should feel the breath circulating at the back of the throat and also hear the waves of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
As I am writing this, I am going through the motions and my five-year-old son is doing it with me, he has just mastered Ujjayi!! It’s as easy as that.
Ujjayi can be practiced with almost all asanas. Let go of the technique for restorative yoga and also when entering into savasana or meditation, allowing the breath to be natural.
Nadi Sodahna or alternate nostril breath is a powerful tool to have in your yoga practice. Nadi translates to channel, and sodahna to purification. Nadis are energy channels in the body. It is believed that we have over 70,000 nadis in the body, the most being concentrated around the spine, or the sushumna. The two main channels the ida (left channel) and the pingala (right channel) circle the spine, the sushumna. Nadi sodahna balances the energies of the ida and the pingala. Alternate nostril breath purifies the body and stills the mind. It is most effective for centering at the beginning of your practice or to prepare for meditation.
Find a comfortable seat; curl your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky of your right hand in to your palm, allowing the index finger and thumb to extend out. Place the index finger (of your right hand) over your right nostril, inhaling through the left nostril. At the top of your inhale, seal off the left nostril with your thumb, opening the right nostril and exhaling through the right side. Inhale through the right side, at the top of the inhale; seal off the right nostril with your index finger exhale left. Repeat.
Play with these breathing tools, get to know them, and come back to them. When you find yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed, remember alternate nostril breath. If you’ve got a lot to going on and feel stress taking over, come back to ujjayi.
The quickest and most effective way to control the mind is with the breath. It is more powerful than most people are aware. When the breath is steady the mind is steady. Take advantage of this resource that supports and fuels your body day in and day out. By bringing consciousness to the breath we allow it to support and fuel the steadiness of the mind. When the mind is steady, in the moments of stillness, we are able to create space between the day-to-day stresses of our lives and the part of ourselves that rests in clarity and ease. We are able to rest in the sweet place of remembering and are able to connect to our most authentic selves.