The Darth Vader AKA Ujjayi Breath (pronounced ooh-jai-yee) also known as Ocean Breath is often only taught in Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow types of yoga as these use the breath to drive the movement. But I see Ujayyi breath as the most integral part of any yoga practice and here’s why:
When I first started yoga I found it highly frustrating, awkward sometimes painful and was mostly In my head the entire practice getting annoyed my body was so far off the ‘reach’ point. Yes I was missing the whole point of yoga! But it was only when I mastered the Ujjayi breath (and the Bandhas but i’ll save those for another article!) once I started a regular Ashtanga yoga class that things massively changed for me.
Ujjayi breath is a form of Pranayama, Prana meaning lifeforce Yama meaning extension = To keep the life force flowing through the body, removing blockages and stagnation along the way.
It greatly increases oxygenation, tones the lungs, builds internal heat which helps detoxify your internal organs and helps the muscles release more into the poses. You know you are breathing correctly when you sweat in your practice.
The benefits of mastering this type of breathing far outweighs mastering any of the poses!
You may have heard people breathing this Darth Vader way in class or may be familiar with it but not know the ins and outs of how to do it correctly. When I teach I try to drum on and on about the breath because I know how easy it is to forget when you are too busy ‘in your head’ thinking about the poses or even what you are having for dinner!
- First sit or stand, back up tall. Open your mouth and pretend you are fogging up a mirror with the hand 2 inches infront of the mouth. Try to make this same ocean sound on the inhale and exhale.
- Now close the mouth and try to make this same sound. The sound is coming from a slight contraction at the back of the throat but you are breathing in and out through the nose.
- Now try to extend the breath for 4 to 5 seconds on each inhale and exhale, slow, deep and steady.
- Now place one hand on the chest and one hand on the belly. On the inhale hold the belly in neutral but expand the ribcage and feel the diaphragm rise up.
- Now on the exhale draw the belly in and feel a slight contraction through the tummy muscles as you draw the belly button back to the spine.
- Keep this flow with equal inhale and exhale, feel the ribcage expand on the inhale, belly button draws back to spine on exhale, focus on this movement and the sound at the back of the throat moving in unison.
- Remember when doing this with the Asanas, every upwards movement is an inhale, every downwards movements is an exhale. The breath drives the movement.
Here’s the thing once you grasp this breathing and the sound of your own breathe throughout the practice its the easiest form of mediation you can do! It massively improves concentration so you become less distracted and more self aware and grounded in the practice. No matter what the phyiscal body is doing the breath stays steady and equal. It ramps ups the benefits of Yoga ten fold, and to be honest I don’t believe it is really yoga you are doing until you master this breathing.
Check out my weekly Yoga classes here