Your Breath, Your BFF: Learn Ujjayi Breathing

Your breath, your best friend forever, is with you in every moment of every day. Why not pay a little more attention to your buddy, and try “victorious breath”?

Anchor yourself to the present moment with this fundamental breath practice:

  • Ujjayi breath is ‘breath with sound,’ or ‘victorious breath,’ and is created by lightly constricting the back of the throat, like you are drawing out the word “haaaa” or fogging up a window pane.
  • To get started, inhale through the nose, and then exhale with the mouth open, fogging up your imaginary window pane.
  • Gradually work towards closing the mouth while still creating the same throat shape and gentle sound, swirling the air around the back of the throat.
  • Ujjayi Breath might sound like waves gently breaking and receding, and shouldn’t be forced or cause a sore throat.
  • When practiced during your yoga postures, ujjayi breath connects the movement with breath, which is one way that the mind-body connection leaves us feeling whole after a practice.
  • In addition, it allows us to keep the breath at the foreground as a means of stilling the mind.
  • Ujjayi breath can be combined with other breath practices as a means of staying present.
Try Ujjayi Breath with Ann- Can you hear the sound of your fans cheering for you?

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Cooling Breath

We can learn something from our dogs! We sometimes worry when Lucy practices her Cooling Puppy Pranayama, but she knows what she’s doing. Panting is the primary way for dogs to cool themselves off because they don’t sweat the way humans do. Instead, dogs cool themselves through their mouths using the evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue, and by exchanging the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air.

For us humans, Cooling Breath, or Sitali Breath, can help in much the same way. We can “drink the air” through a curled tongue to cool down!

How to Practice Sitali / Sitkari Breath:

  1. Close your eyes, take a few normal breaths, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”
  2. Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth.
  3. Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
  4. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
  5. Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. During each exhalation, you can also lightly touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, inviting the tip of the tongue to send coolness toward the upper palate.
  6. Swallow now and then if the throat feels dry. 
  7. Continue this cycle until you feel refreshed.
  8. If you are unable to curl your tongue, try Sitkari breath. Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air. Inhale through the teeth and exhale through the nose.

Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst! Sitali breath cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and may reduce fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. Try it for yourself and let us know how it goes!

For more Pranayama or Breathing Exercises, visit the Breath Page.