Q: Some students struggle to grasp the source of Ujjayi breathing, while others tend to exaggerate it. What’s the best way to teach Ujjayi breath?
The sound of Ujjayi pranayama serves two purposes: One, it stimulates the nadis, or energy channels, in the sinuses and at the back of the throat, which, in turn, promotes mental clarity and focus. And two, it provides a sound to latch onto, so that the mind can become more still. When the sound oscillates, the mind too is oscillating, and the student can hear this.
During the inhalation, I teach students to imagine a hole in their throat that they are breathing through, thereby creating the sibilant sound of pranayama. The inhalation should rub against the back of the nasal cavity and throat. During the exhalations, I ask my students to imagine that they are saying “ha” without the “a,” and to feel the breath rubbing against the frontal sinuses as it leaves the body. Both inhalation and exhalation must be done with the mouth closed, through the nostrils only.
About Our Expert
Recognized as one of the world’s top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally-renowned Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified naturopath, a certified Ayurvedic health science practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.