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Ujjayi For All

Dear Yogi Marlon,
Is there a certain type of yoga I should look for that uses the ujjayi breath with the asanas? I really enjoy your [“Yoga For Absolute Beginners” DVD]. Thanks so much!

Lexington, KY

Yogi Marlon
Howdy Lisa,

Glad you are enjoying the beginner DVD. In answer to your question, there are few yoga practices that do not use ujjayi pranayama or basic yogic breathing. Let me clarify.

As you search for classes in the marketplace, you’ll find many types of yoga, which may be labeled names like as Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, and Vini. These names more reflect the recent history of a particular 20th century teacher than a traditional branch of yoga. They are each basically derived from Hatha Yoga with varying areas of focus. Depending on the teacher, you may get more or less instruction on how to do ujjayi or on it’s effect and importance. Eventually, each teacher would include ujjayi as part of the practice, and in my opinion the sooner the better.

In a more traditional view of ujjayi’s role in yoga, consider that yoga’s literal definition “to yoke or join” applies to a great variety of techniques, which range from the concrete to the abstract. The most concrete union is the movement of the body with the movement of the breath. Here Hatha Yoga instructs us to join asana with ujjayi, where ujjayi’s power assists in burning out toxins. Subtler than the heat that results in sweat, ujjayi purifies our nadis, which are our purely etheric energy channels. Ujjayi’s ability to do this strongly contributes to our feeling of emotional and mental relief after a yoga practice. This energetic purification constitutes the primary difference between asana practice and other forms of exercise, and ujjayi pranayama is directly, but not solely responsible.

Bikram Yoga, which is a brand name and franchise not a traditional branch of yoga, is the only school that openly discourages the use of ujjayi. It was once explained to me by a Bikram practitioner that the environmental heat is so high that any additional heat is counter-indicated.

In the more mentally oriented tradition of Raja Yoga, we are asked to employ ujjayi, as we concentrate unwaveringly on meditative focal points. Ujjayi elongates our brainwaves within moments, which provides the stillness of both body and mind that is the essential launching point for the practices. Likewise in Kriya Yoga, ujjayi physiologically establishes the setting for the depth and subtlety of its purification techniques.

Whether for the novice or the experienced yogi, ujjayi holds the unique place of being incredibly primary, but versatile and essential to most yogic practices. The very first steps on the road to yoga’s most subtle and certainly most sublime, ultimate goal of merging oneself with the divine in a constant, effortless state known as samadhi, is paved with ujjayi.

Om Shanti,

Yogi Marlon

If you have a sincere interest in trying yoga and are minimum 50 lbs overweight, please email me at [] with BIG YOGA in the subject line.

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