Ujjayi Breath and Viniyoga
In the Viniyoga tradition primary emphasis is placed on the breath. To give a few examples, movement into asanas originates with the breath; movement is paced to match the length of the breath; and breath is adapted for its energetic effects in both asanas and pranayama.
One of the techniques used to help manage the breath in both asana and pranayama practice is ujjayi or throat valving. Using ujjayi controls the flow of the breath by controlling the length and pace. Initiate this technique by partially contracting the glottis, i.e. the vocal cords and the space between them.
Trying to explain the feeling is challenging but it’s like the throat sensation felt when fogging a mirror. Hold your hand up to your mouth and imitate fogging a mirror and you’ll feel a slight vibration which is the glottis contracting. That’s the feeling you get with ujjayi breathing.
Ujjayi breath is used on inhale and exhale, but if you’re not familiar with this technique, start with the exhale. As you exhale through your nose, contract your belly and notice if you feel a slight vibration in your throat. Continue experimenting with this technique on exhale and, eventually, you will use it for inhale as well. It just seems to happen naturally.
All asana practices should use the ujjayi breath and many pranayama practices incorporate it as well. Please remember: make your breath smooth and steady as you do your yoga practice. Never, ever force the breath.
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