Focused breathing or Ujjayi

There have been many routines that I practice. Surprisingly I don’t remember each one to the last posture. I just let it flow out of me as I teach. Most of these routines, I start with Focused breathing.

Starting with Focused breathing. Also called Ujjayi – ‘Victorious Breath’ or ‘Victory over breath’. When you control your breath, you control your mind.

Sit down on your mat in any comfortable position. I recommend the Easy posture or Sukhasana. This is just sitting with your legs crossed. If you can, try the half-lotus – this is Sukhasana with one of the feet on the opposite thigh. Half-Lotus is a good preparatory posture for the Full-lotus. If you are used to or can, sit in the classic Lotus posture. The key thing is, whichever position you take, you need to be comfortable. You should also absolutely do this. Sit with the back held up. When you do this, the lower part of the spine is vertical to the ground, or even a bit angled to the front. What happens is, after a few minutes of sitting, the back gives up involuntarily and that’s what you got to watch for.

Focused breathing, means paying a lot of attention on your breath. You breathe right – comfortably deep inhales and exhales, utilizing all of your chest, the bottom part, middle and the top of the lungs.

Secondly, during focused breathing, you listen to the sound of the breath. This helps in a key aspect – to keep the mind from spinning out thoughts. If you make an attempt to always listen to the sound of your breath, you actually gain control over your breath. To hear the sound better, tuck in your chin into the base of your throat, like a baby does. The sound is typically like that of a distant ocean. If you watch a baby sleeping, you can hear the sound of his/her breath away from him/her. That’s how it should sound like to you from within.

I would say 2-3 minutes of focused breathing to start with. After a minute or two, the mind starts to quieten down. I have seen remarkable results with this technique. The outside noise, for one, dims. It is like tuning out of the distractions.

As you inhale, you can start with your diaphragm – the membrane separating the abdomen from your lungs – moving. The lower part of your chest or the upper part of your tummy moves out, puffed up. Step two, expand your middle of the chest comfortably. You want to feel the skin stretching. Again, no over stretching – remember, you should always be in a state where you can enjoy doing Yoga. The third step is to slightly and subtly raise the collar bones. This fills up your top of the lungs. For exhalation, follow the reverse. Release the top of the lungs, then the middle of the chest and then the lower part of the lungs. All these steps are pretty contiguous. That’s focused breathing.

I have experienced an improvement in the quality of sleep if I practice Focused breathing before I go to sleep. 5 minutes is good enough. I can almost guarantee that you will sleep better. It works like this. The mind quietens down and hence your sleep gets better. If your routine is like most people’s, then the mind is quite tired and even agitated before sleep. Watching TV adds to it as the mind cannot rest. Reading a book, however, reduces the amount of information the mind needs to focus. Of course, it depends on the nature of the book. The ancient texts recommend reading scriptures, and that is a fantastic idea.

Focused breathing can also be practised when you are agitated and need to quieten down. I have practised focused breathing when going to work and I find myself strengthened as I walk out of the car. I have used this breathing technique to get over a severe headache once. This was while going to work and half way through after practising, the head ache was gone. No kidding, here! Promise :), if that helps

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