What is Ujjayi Breath in Yoga Teacher Training?

Ujjayi breath, also known as Throat Breathing or Breath of Victory, is an integral part of every static or asana flow routine and is the foundation of other pranayama techniques. In the practice of yoga, an asana flow is a series of exercises executed in a continuous, smooth manner, each exercise flowing into the next. Desikachar states that, during inhalation, the primary movement of breath into the body expands the area from the upper chest to the navel. The contraction of the abdomen is the focal point during exhalation. There are two types of Ujjayi, Anuloma and Viloma Ujjayi, and for this study, only Viloma Ujjayi will be considered. Viloma Ujjayi Desikachar, The Heart, 63 Iyengar, Light, 441, 448. Desikachar, The Heart, 56

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Anuloma In Sanskrit is defined as “to alternate” and is another type of Ujjayi breath. The inhalation begins from the throat and with one nostril completely closed; the exhalation passes through the opened nostril. Viloma when broken into two syllables, Vi means against and Loma means hair. The term refers to being against the natural flow.

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Young woman doing yoga in morning park for Relaxing . Wellness and Healthy Lifestyle.

breath begins by taking air in from the nose and breathing out from the throat and with a closed mouth. Desikachar explains that when practicing the technique the student should breathe through the nostrils and not the mouth. In contrast, singers may choose to breathe from the mouth and the nose when preparing to sing. Depending on the venue’s environment, breathing in through the mouth might result in a dry throat. Ujjayi can be practiced either standing or seated. Iyengar and Lister suggest singer-friendly instructions on how to enter the exercise.

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  1. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor (with a block under the buttocks to align the spine.)
  2. Stretch the arms out straight and rest the back of the wrists on the knees.
  3.  Close the eyes.
  4.  Exhale completely.
  5. Exhale slowly with a closed mouth. Engage the throat by approximating the vocal folds to form a narrow path for the air. The resulting sound will resemble a whisper sound.
  6. As an alternate way to find the position: exhale with an open mouth and pretend to fog a mirror then attempt the same gesture with a closed mouth.
  7. Twelve rounds complete one cycle of Viloma Ujjayi Pranayama.
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Iyengar mentions that this genre of pranayama is helpful in bringing oxygen to the lungs, removes sinus congestion, improves endurance and is highly effective for people suffering from hypertension and heart issues. Ibid., 56, 60. Iyengar, Light, 441. Lister, Yoga, 47 Iyengar, Light, 442 Ibid., 443.

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Singers may choose to breathe from the mouth and the nose when preparing to sing. Although, breathing through the mouth might provoke a cough or dry throat. Singers can benefit from Viloma Ujjayi because it focuses on lengthening the processes of inhalation and exhalation and draws attention to the abdomen

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Richard Miller (1926-2009), voice teacher and vocal pedagogue, states that when singers are preparing to phonate, the diaphragm, the thoracic and abdominal muscles become more active. Singing numerous, long phrases, over the period required for the performance of most arias or songs, places great demands on the breath system. The breath cycle consists of inhalation onset, phrase duration and release and is repeated frequently as the composition proceeds. Miller’s description of a single breath cycle is similar to Ujjayi breath and is performed without phonation, preparing the glottis for phonation. Miller suggests one should:

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that the lungs should not have a feeling of being crowded. They are to be relaxed and the breath is not to be held. Benefits the singer may find helpful are the slowing down of an elevated pulse and the encouragement to be conscious of a quieter, more controlled inhalation. Iyengar suggests that this technique is ideal for those suffering from hypertension and anxiety.  One may conclude there are both similarities and differences between the two methods of approaching the breath cycle, which may be used