Tag Archives: Ujjayi

Approaching the victorious path of Pranayama (Part 2)

Now that I have covered some of the main prerequisites for Pranayama, now I will teach how to do Ujjayi I and II. The word Ujjayi combines the words “expanding” (Ud) and “victorious” (Jaya) which may refer to the expansion of the chest, and the feeling of being a “champion” with the posturing of a wide and lifted chest. The I and II levels are taught from supported Savasana (corpse pose.)

First you need a proper blanket setup. My preferred Pranayama setup is with three Mexican style blankets. Notice that the fringes are opposite to create an even surface and notice the trifold of the “pillow” blanket.

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See the instructions for Savasana for more detail about getting into the pose. The spine has to roll down evenly and the right and left side have to be even.

With the blankets you see the chest opening is exaggerated. This allows the lungs to open to their capacity. Also notice the chin relative to the sternum forming the basis for jalandara bandha.

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Ujjayi Pranayama

Similarly to how Tadasana is the foundation for all standing Asanas and Dandasana is the foundation for all sitting Asanas, Ujjayi is the foundation and reference point for all the Pranayamas. Note that all Pranayamas are done through the nostrils.

Ujjayi I

  • From the reclined position, Ujjayi is commenced by first expelling all the “tidal air” out of the lungs.
  • Without manipulating the breath, commence normal breathing, but observe the four parts of the breath’s structure (Puraka, Bhaya Kumbhaka, Rechaka, Antara Kumbhaka).
  • Gradually when the mind slows to the pace of the breath, observe any imbalances in breathing patterns and adjust accordingly.
  • Eventually practice until there is no tension or quivering in the flow of the breath.
  • Maintain this process for 10 minutes.

Ujjayi II

  •  In Ujjayi II the exhale (Rechaka) is accented. From the above exercise, exhale completely until the lungs are emptied and don’t put pressure on the abdomen.
  • Inhale normally
  • Exhale slowly until the lungs are emptied.
  • Maintain this process for 10 minutes.

After Pranayama, undo the blanket setup for the chest and then commence Savasana for 10 minutes.

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It is interesting to observe that doing Savasana after Asana practice, Savasana  feels “deep” relative to the physical postures. However, doing Savasana after Pranayama, one notices how “shallow” the Savasana is compared to the Pranayama practice. It is one of the few physical evidences we have that Pranayama is a deeper progression along the eight limbs than Asana.

I hope you found this post helpful in your practice. I will emphasize that this post is merely a perfunctory view of Pranayama. For more details and refinements, please refer to Light on Pranayama by B.K.S. Iyengar and attend classes from an Iyengar Certified Yoga Instructor in your area.

OM Shanti

 

 

 

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Use part of your lunch hour to add a daily pranayama practice

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Yoga must have been very different back in the day. Imagine if you had joined a yoga school in India around the time of Patanjali. You would have left all of your earthly belongings to study yoga. A portion of your daily practice, aside from learning Sanskrit, doing asana, practicing devotion to your teachers, doing japas and cleaning the temple, would be a regular practice of pranayama in preparation for meditation.

Fast forward to 2015. There is no temple. There is no renunciation. You have bills and if you are lucky you have a job. To top it off, yoga is becoming now a fad with endless selfie pictures on the news feed. Had enough? Perhaps you can reclaim some elements of the past by finding a quiet place, shutting off your devices, and doing 10 to 15 minutes of pranayama. That is not much to ask considering 15 minutes is only 1.042% of your day.

Pranayama is an extremely subtle practice on the nervous system, and the esoteric yoga anatomy. In the Iyengar system, pranayama is kept separate from asana practice. It requires total concentration. For beginners, pranayama is learned in Savasana (corpse pose) with support that expands the chest cavity. I would highly recommend getting Light On Pranayama and studying with a certified teacher before getting too “experimental” with pranayama. Iyengar strongly suggests it could be harmful if done improperly.

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I have found lunchtime to be optimal for my pranayama practice. It corresponds nicely to one’s natural circadian rhythm around “siesta time.” I can find a quiet place, set up my blankets, do 15 minutes of pranayama/savasana, and then eat my lunch. Since I am a case manager, I usually have the freedom to choose where I can do this. If you are in an office you can find an empty room or quiet area.

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My preferred pranayama setup

Today, I did pranayamas with a “breathing out” emphasis to reduce my job related stress. I did Ujjayi II, Viloma II, and Bhramari 2A and 2B (see Light on Pranayama). Afterwards it was like hitting the “reset” button. I was able take on my challenging daily tasks with a clear mind and and a sense of hopefulness that had been absent for the previous part of the day.

Another advantage of doing pranayama is that you don’t need any special workout/yoga clothing. Just make sure your clothing does not constrict your breathing. Having a regular pranayama practice is nowhere near as flashy as the ubiquitous #instagramyogis that swarm the interwebs, but true yoga is done for the inward experience.