Managing Stress Through Breath

water stillnessPranayama is breath work in yoga. Technically speaking: Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prana or breath” or, “extension of the life force”. There are breathing patterns that affect the nervous system, as well as the emotions.

Ujjayi breathing is a breathing technique used in yoga practices. It is sometimes called “the ocean breath”. Unlike some other forms of pranayama, the ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana (posture) practice and can help focus the mind for meditation.

To perform ujjayi, first fill the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat (fourth and fifth chakras). The technique is also sometimes referred to as the complete three part breath.

Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose: noses are for breathing, mouths are for talking and eating. The “ocean sound” is created by narrowing the throat passage, much like when we suck on a straw. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, creating a “rushing” sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a way that causes no distress.

It is best to work patiently and persistently. Never use force. Instead invite the breath to move in this way. As soon as there is stress perceived in the body or mind; let go of the breath for a little while, refocus and try again. Start slowly, increase time gradually. Observe how the body and mind change over time.

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