Breath - the main tool in meditation
I have been meditating for a while now and every now and then I find some ideas that help me improve my practice.
Why do I meditate?
The purpose varies for everyone, for me is to receive benefits on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
I find it really helps me dealing with stress and being calm most of the time. I have also become more aware of my thoughts and chose how I feel most of the time, somehow I feel more connected to my soul.
New research is also showing that meditation restores the brain. A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.
Earlier today, I came across this article and loved it because I am always looking on how to improve my meditation practice, so I can meditate for longer periods of time and increase the benefits.
It is about the main tool of meditation : the breath. I hope it contributes to your practice too.
How To Practice Ujjayi Breath
Begin by taking a slow, smooth breath in through you nose. You should not breathe in so much that it is uncomfortable.
As you breathe out, narrow the back of your throat passage to make the breath audible. You should be able to create a noise similar to the sound of rushing water. Use your diaphragm to control the length and speed of the breath, in that way you will also strengthen this muscle. Ujjayi breath is sometimes known as the “ocean breath,” because of the way you rattle the glottis (vocal folds) as air passes in and out.
If you aren’t sure how to make this breath at first, try opening your mouth on the exhale as if you are fogging up a pair of glasses, or saying “haaaaaaaah.” When you are able to create the sound on an exhale through your mouth, attempt the same breath exhaled through your nose. Feel the air flow out through your nasal passages.
As you practice remember that inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose and should be an equal amount of time in duration. Make sure to keep your breath flowing and your throat open. Don’t tense your shoulders or jaw. Be careful not to overfill your lungs as it will cause tension. Finally, keep your navel pulled in while breathing.
Using The Ujjayi Breath In Your Practice At first your breaths will be shorter, perhaps two or three seconds. As you deepen your practice try to make your breaths longer. Some advanced yogis will only breathe in and out a few times per minute, but you should strive for what feels comfortable to you. After time this breath will become effortless.
When your yoga teacher tells you to inhale, make it an Ujjayi inhale, and do the same on the exhale. If you are struggling to hold a pose, remember this breath. You can use it to strengthen yourself by concentrating on sending the power created by this breath to whatever part of your body is tight.
Benefits Of Ujjayi Breath
There is a direct link between the breath and the mind. When you use this breath to allow your prana (energy) to flow freely you will feel healthy and vibrant. When prana is restricted, you will experience fatigue and fogginess.
Physically the Ujjayi breath promotes the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body. This oxygenation will build your internal body heat, which is essential to a safe yoga practice. It also helps regulate blood pressure and tones the lungs. In addition, this breath is known to balance out the cardio-respiratory system.
A study from Sweden found that Ujjiya breath reduces anxiety, depression and stress. It also showed that Ujjayi breath will give you a more positive outlook. Using this breath will release any feelings of irritation and anxiety that distract you in your yoga practice and your everyday life.
Ujjayi breathe is used continuously throughout strong practices such as Ashtanga, Power yoga and Flow yoga. It helps the practitioner to maintain a rhythm while moving through sets of poses. By focusing on your breath as you practice, you will build energy to improve your practice and clear toxins and tension out of your organs and body.
Ujjayi breath is essential during transitions between asanas because it helps yoga practitioners to maintain a sense of the present while practicing. This breath will keep you self-aware and grounded in your practice. The sound that the breath makes will link your body and mind, and minimize distractions.
You can also use this breath outside of the yoga studio. Try using it when you are feeling frustrated or angry, and you will find that it can have a positive effect on your mental state. You can use it while engaged in other types of exercises such as running, cycling and hiking. In fact, many high level athletes use Ujjayi breath in their training.
The word Ujjayi comes from the Sanskrit prefix “ud” for one who is and “ji” for victorious, thus it means “one who is victorious.” And by mastering this breath and combining it with a physical yoga practice, you too will be victorious on the mat and your everyday life.