Last week we looked at the term ‘-asana’ and how we can use the knowledge of its meaning to enhance our Yoga practice. This week we take a look at another frequently used term that forms one of the key foundations of our practice – Pranayama. Pranayama is the fourth of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga (we will go into these further next week! For now, just keep it in mind). The word is formed by two terms ‘prana’ meaning life-force, and either ‘ayama’, which means to control or restrain the prana, or ‘ayāma’ meaning to extend or draw out. Researchers have repeatedly reported that Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating stress-related disorders. One of the most common forms of Pranayama is the ‘Ujjayi pranayama’ which is also known as the ‘victorious or conquering breath’. In Yoga, it is sometimes referred to as ‘the ocean breath’ and is typically performed in association with asana practice.
The Ujjayi breath is diaphragmatic which fills the lower belly and rises to the lower rib cage, finally rising into the upper chest and throat. You inhale and exhale through the nose only and for equal duration. The ocean sound is created by narrowing your throat passage, which makes the rushing noise. Focusing on Ujjayi breath has many benefits for your body, it releases tension, can diminish pain from headaches and can relieve sinus pressure. It can also help to strengthen nervous and digestive systems.
Focus on your breathing during your yoga practice to reap the benefits, but also consider how you breathe in general, you may find that practicing different breathing techniques whilst you are in different situations can help you to control your stress levels in daily life.
Check out last week’s Form 360 blog for a quick breathing technique that can give you instant relief of tension and anxiety.