The breathing methods that are described below, are (1) deep breathing, and (2) the core of kriya yoga, also called Ujjayi, rendered loosely as 'winning breath'. Deep breathing and Ujjayi can very well be combined. That is, you may breathe Ujjayi more deeply, yet measuredly, to the end of increasing the effects of yoga breathing. Ujjayi is called "the ocean breath" by the sound made by the breath gently passing through your throat: The throat passage is softly narrowed, and so is the airway – thereby the air passing through the throat causes a very slight friction sound, a soft hissing sound.
Yogic deep breathing and Ujjayi both work well to prepare the body and mind for meditation, and so does the combination of yogic deep breathing and Ujjayi. You are supposed to be sensible and careful when you practice, for particularly Ujjayi is the basic part of kriya yoga. Further, a Wikipedia article tells of Ujjayi breathing that it is made use of in a variety of Hindu and Taoist Yoga practices. Ujjayi breathing may be done while practicing several yoga postures, while sitting still, walking slowly, and so on. The in-breath and out-breath are to be of the same length, and without causing any distress. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Ujjayi breath"]
There are variants of Ujjayi, and many yogic claims on behalf of it. (see Niranjanananda 2009 for some of the variants)
You should at all times feel comfortable and relaxed as you sit and breathe deeply. Moderate, deep breathing is safe if you follow some sensible guidelines in the matter. It should also be pleasant. Breathing exercises should never be pushed to the point of weariness or exhaustion. So do not push beyond the limits. If there appears any problem, talk with your physician about it just to be on the safe side.
Now, let there be room for variety and change in the exercises too, but always remain gentle and nonviolent. Do not breathe jerkily or irregularly in this exercise, but let the breathing movements be smooth, steady and continuous.
Not to suppress the body's natural urges is a golden principle of Ayurveda. Hence, if you want to take a shorter breath during your deep breathing, feel free to do it.
Try not to hoist up the shoulders while you stick to the rhythm of the practice. Your main task in the long run is perhaps do it so that you enjoy it. So never strain and force yourself, but be careful to keep relaxed. Never overdo the breathing either; for then you may get dizzy and nauseous, get headaches, and faint. Keep your practice gentle, easy, calm and unhurried, and there should be no dangers.
Start by breathing to the count of 3 to 6; find the count that suits you. Then hold the breath, counting 1 or 2, and start slowly exhaling, again to the count of 3-6. Hold the breath to a count of 1 or 2.
Inhalation should be done gently and effortlessly. Prefer to breathe through the nose. Do not tense the nostrils; let them remain relaxed. It should all be done in a smooth, continuous rhythm with each part following smoothly on from the previous part. Avoid any jerky movements and undue strain.
Breathing in and out to an equal number of beats is called rhythmic breathing.
This slower, deeper breathing may stimulate the lungs into healthier action, and may calm the nerves. Research shows that relaxed, deep breathing can help to reduce the effects of stress, and bring calmness and clarity of thought.
In his book Yoga, which first appeared in 1960, James Hewitt describes the soft and simple pranayama breath of Ujjayi. Excerpts
Victorious Breath (Ujjayi)
In his far more extensive The Complete Yoga Book (1991:102-104), Hewitt describes the core kriya pranayama and cites various sources and variants of it, and extraordinary claims on its behalf. The presentation here is aimed at maximum benefit by "going simple", for eventually that is how great and future benefits may be had.
Ujjayi, superficially explained: Ujjayi is simply to breathe smoothly in and out through both nostrils (or through nostrils and mouth or the mouth only, if breathing through the nose is obstructed).
There are many variants and elaborations. Much can be added. One should be intent on keeping it simple. If so, Ujjayi may be practised on occasions while walking or lying down, for example. Among its great benefits are that it invigorates and is easy to learn and use.
Some more: You are to breathe in through both nostrils in a slow and continuous flow. The flow's evenness is sensed by its "being made audible by partly closing the glottis, the opening from the pharynx into the windpipe which modulates speech . . ." By this little measure the entering, quite cool air is both felt and heard and can be regulated according to the gently hissing sound that is produced.
Now let the air out slowly, smoothly, and continuously through both nostrils (if you can, otherwise include mouth-breathing too). Empty the lungs somewhat, gently at that.
Breathing gently in and out once like this is called a round.
Ujjayi, more extensively
Ujjayi (OO-jah-yee) is a technique of breathing that is easily combined with deep yoga breathing (above). Ujjayi can be easily learnt.
There are several variants of Ujjayi. Some of them accompany asana-backed up kriya yoga too. The backbone of several kriya methods is Ujjayi (Satyananda 1981). The most beneficial all-round variant is the unheard or nearly unheard variant of Ujjayi.
On the way to beneficial, smooth, calm breathing of this kind, that is, quite inaudible breathing, listen to how a child who falls asleep breathes and notice a gently hissing sound – the hhh-sound – the sound of a "gentle snore" when the mouth is opened. It is produced by relaxing the glottis area and the back of the throat, slightly constricting the passage of air. Make hhh very gently deep in the throat, then, and do not over-contract the throat. Restrict the flow of air through the larynx, producing a "just audiable" snoring sound. As the throat passage is narrowed, the airway is narrowed, creating such a "rushing" sound. So, contract your throat just a little to sense the hhh-sound. The hhh-sound is made while breathing out as well as breathing in.
Next step: Keep the throat in just the same position while breathing calmly through the nose. All these ways – breathing through the mouth, through the mouth and nose, and through the nose alone – may work well. However, soft nose breathing in the Ujjayi way can easily be found to be the superior one among them, if you are able to breathe through the nose, that is. Otherwise, mouth breathing works as well.
Ujjayi with nose breathing may well be the best known Ujjayi variant. Anyway, Ujjayi breathing is used along with almost all yoga postures and is often used during relaxation – and for kriya yoga.
It is taught that the Ujjayi method of breathing ensures a better intake of energy, and helps mental clarity and awareness, and promotes sound self-integration. against being ueigen, 'not really oneself somehow'.
There are no particular restrictions on its use. If you do it right, you can sit and breathe like this for a long while and enjoy its relaxing effects. To do it adequately, see the instructions for deep breathing (above) and the second Ujjayi.
Basic Kriya Breathing: Inaudible Ujjayi
Prefer the inaudible variant. How to do the unheard, gentle variant: Sit, preferably with your shoulders back somewhat, or lie down. Breathe through the nose if it is not stopped. Breathe gently, calmly, without strain, all the time. On the way to the proper method, think of a rose, and seek to breathe in the fine and delicate fragrance by inhaling and exhaling over the back of your throat. Gently, unheard, refined somehow, and you kindly open the throat and glottis too. This is very important in doing the silent variant. You breathe in and out very, very gently, without making a sound, ideally, or next to no sound. The one sensory feedback you have, is the faint feeling of cool air in the throat, maybe a muffled vibration there too. Yet the breath itself is soundless, and so effortless that "it would not move a feather held in front of the face".
Do not tense your eyes, neck, nostrils, jaws, and root of the tongue, and do not hoist your shoulders either. But try to put the tongue somewhere further back in the mouth while you are at it – but do not strain yourself, so go ahead very gently. Alternatively, bend the tongue back so that the tip of the tongue presses the back of the soft palate on the roof of the mouth without strain. Some say you should lift the tip of your tongue to get twice the effect of the breathing practice, but if you just "make it thick" and draw it backwards somewhat, it may work a little better, along with the inaudible breathing.
If you hear any sound during the practice, it should be very close to the hhh-sound. The better you do the even, gentle breathing method, the less you hear of it. Be relaxed throughout, and do not overdo it. And recall: Ujjayi breathing by an experienced practitioner is (as good as) soundless. You might do well to go for that variant from the start.
Do maintain an even flow of breath when breathing in and breathing out – smooth and continuous. The time for breathing in and for breathing out should be equally long, that is, just a few seconds. Three seconds may be good for everyone. You add the Ujjayi way of breathing to deep yogic breathing (above), and there you have it, even with variants of holding your breath for a second after breathing in and after breathing out – if such tiny pauses comes naturally.
While there are few restrictions on the use of the first variant, audible Ujjayi, the second variant can make you giddy fast unless you train yourself by regular, small steps to enjoy the powerful effects. Here are rules of the thumb, or more detailed suggestions:
You are advised to keep the attention focused on the heart while you practice – the area lies about 5 cm behind the breastbone (sternum), two fingerbreadth above the lower end of it, quite exactly.
Do not force the breathing a bit, stay as relaxed as you can at all times, and seek to notice how you feel from just three rounds of breathing in this way – after just about half a minute, that is. Let the length of your breath be natural and not forced. At the bottom of the out breath – while holding the breath a bit – you can contract the perineum somewhat for a couple of seconds. The practice is termed mula bandha. Some find it natural to do it. If so, you may continue that too.
Ujjayi can be done while moving, standing, sitting, or walking, but prefer to do the strong, silent variant while sitting. It can be done at any time of the day and night. Correct practice may steady the mind, bring calm and focus, and helps relaxation too. Done slowly, gently, it helps some against difficulty of falling asleep. along with yoga postures it is said to help you to stay present, self-aware, and grounded in the practice.
If focus is lost while doing it, simply return it to the breath and continue.
Keep the practice simple and within you own capabilities at all times, so that there will be no problems.
Mastery comes with time and good practice. (Satyananda 1981:192-93, 200)
Benefits according to sources:
Yoga teaches that this way of breathing clears the head, and prevents diseases like asthma. It should help digestion, work toward normalising the blood pressure, and prolong one's life. (Hewitt 1992:79; Sinha 1980:71-77)
The Ujjayi breath gives energy and enhances the ability to assimilate prana (life force), and yields more delicate energy within your body. Thus, try it a little and see if it is true for you. There is good reason to stop when you feel giddy, dizzy. And you should stop before fainting.
Those with breathing problems such as asthma should seek medical advice and the guidance of a qualified teacher.
If you feel dizzy or light-headed, stop for a few minutes, then resume.
Care and Freedom
You may have come across that simple kriya can speed up your inner evolution fabulously. Ask for evidence that it is so, in case. Now, granted that core kriya is a delight to perform if you do it fairly well, would you like to back up some of its benefits by steering your life too? In that case this advice may give you help:
Mastery of sex and mastery of deep breathing are not the same thing, but they are very much related deep inside. Ask yourself if you are natural in your goings and dealings with the mate. That comes first. If not, strive for that first. It may take a life-time, though. I daresay: If you are not sound and natural toward your dear ones, rather much may be in vain. That is likely to include the linking of sex and kriya (ujjayi) too. But that is my opinion.
Being natural enough means being able to do away with decor, stunts, facades, status things and status, and meeting the other face to face in intimate and games-free encounters. Transactional Analysis (TA) sets up such intimacy as a great goal. And no one has to be naked for it. (James and Jongeward 1971; Berne 2010)
Suppose you can meet one another all right, without having needs for artificial things and without feeling caged in for it. If such conditions are met - sound for any home life, in principle - it could work all right to combine sensible, deep breathing and Ujjayi with sex, to enhance the enjoyment.
Kriya yoga is tantric, and Ujjayi is the core part of basic kriyas, says Satyananda. Tantras recommend several love-postures. More common manuals of love-making include the Kama Sutra (Burton 1883). Basic postures:
These are common. For getting suppler, for example Christina Brown's "preliminary practices" – basic yoga postures – offers guiding instructions (Brown 2003).
Berne, Eric. Games People Play. Reissue ed. London: Penguin, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ Interesting introduction to basic Transactional Analysis by its founder, the Canadian-born psychiatrist Dr Eric Berne.
Brown, Christina. The Yoga Bible: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Postures. London: Godsfield, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ There is a newer edition from 2009 of this comprehensive, informative, clear and understandable guide to practicing yoga postures and programmes. It shows how you may modify several postures. It comes with photo illustrations of "finished" postures to go for in time.
Chang, Jolan. 1977. The Tao of Love and Sex: The Ancient Chinese Way to Ecstasy. New York: E. P. Dutton. ⍽▢⍽ Among the subjects in his book: the role of women in sex and the importance of female satisfaction. To some it is a very interesting book on ancient Taoist sexual practices or sexology. Douglas Wile's Art of the Bedchamber (below) may enlarge the views in it.
Hewitt, James. Yoga (Teach Yourself). 4th ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992. ⍽▢⍽ This is the author's formerly entitled Teach Yourself Yoga (London: The English Universities Press, 1960), in its fourth edition. Ujjayi, the Victorious Breath, is treated on pp. 85-86.
Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. London: Rider, 1991. ⍽▢⍽ A comprehensive encyclopaedia of yoga, illustrated with pen drawings. It comes with programmes and the encouraging "the quality of our sex life, as well as its vitality, is enhanced by Yogic exercises and controls (etc.)." (p. 151). Ujjayi, "victorious breath, triumph-breath", is called basic kriya yoga in Satyananda Yoga. It is described on pp 102-04 here.
James, Muriel, and Dorothy Jongeward. Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments. New York: Signet, 1978 (1st ed. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1971). ⍽▢⍽ A nice and useful book about asserting oneself, written in simple language.
Niranjanananda, Swami. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ The book is about life force, prana - and regulations of it, pranayama. It provides an extensive description, starting with prana theory, and brings in related yogic concepts like chakras and mantras. It also expands on research or studies into pranayama. Detailed guidelines for practicing pranayama follow, and with illustrations. Sources are referred to. The author is the successor of Satyananda Saraswati (next entry), and has headed Bihar School of Yoga and the Yoga Publications Trust in Munger, Bihar, India. He is at present (2016) a spiritual guide there.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981. ⍽▢⍽ Here is a comprehensive compilation (957 pages) for a lifetime's hard training or study. Thus, it may not be the good buy for beginners. Brown's book (above) may suit beginners a lot better.
Sinha, Phulgenda. Yogic Cure for Common Diseases. Rev. and enlarged ed. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1980. ⍽▢⍽ Yoga therapy is thoroughly researched, has measured effects, and they are well recognized. The book is based on Dr Sinha's experiences with thousands of patients suffering from such diseases as arthritis, high blood pressure, neck and spinal problems and heart disease. Here are recommended, simple yoga poses and other practical instructions to try out for a general reader. Dr. Sinha is a recognized scholar of the art and science of yoga.
Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Rev. ed. New York: Weatherhill, 1999. (Newer ed. Shambhala, 2011) ⍽▢⍽ A respected Zen master returns to the idea of beginner's mind, that our original nature is our true nature and Zen practice goes into our daily life. The book is from lectures, and is not a training manual. The concept of the original mind is found in several Tibetan Buddhist works too, and their old Indian sources. In Tibetan Yoga, Dzogchen or Mahamudra, the Great Seal, stands for the same thing. The translator-professor Garma C. C. Chang has it thus: "From my own personal experiences in the study and practice of both Zen and Tantricism, I have discovered that the teachings of Zen and the advanced Tantricism of the Mahamudra are identical. Any difference discernible is merely the superficial and external one of diversity of style and methods of presentation. The essence is wholly the same [in Evans-Wentz, W. ed: Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University, 1967:xxxv-xxxvi].
Wile, Douglas. 1992. Art of the Bedchamber: The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics Including Women's Solo Meditation Texts. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ⍽▢⍽ A source book in Chinese sexual yoga and sexual practices, with nearly two dozen classical writings on the use of sexual energy in achieving health and long life.
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