It seems I left you with a cliffhanger last week. Several of you emailed, eager to know what ujjayi #6 is. Lucky for us, I have Iyengar connections, and was able to get the “secret” information. It feels like I just learned the secret handshake! My good friend, Iyengar teacher, Judi Friedman has outlined below the first, eight stages of ujjayi breath from the Iyengar tradition. In this tradition, pranayama practices are taught slowly, and to students who have shown a certain level of proficiency in their asana practice.
At Yoga Haven, we teach ujjayi breath where there is a slight constriction at the back of throat. Inhaling and exhaling through the nose, an audible sound is made. This sounds like ocean waves or Darth Vader. The practice of ujjayi breath in the Iyengar tradition has the same constriction in the back of the throat, but the sound is only made for the individual to hear.
Ujjayi Stages I through IV are all practiced lying down, usually in supported savasana (e.g, lying on a bolster or two folded blankets with head support):
Stage I – Breathe in and out normally but consciously observe the breath (fill and empty both lungs evenly)
Stage II – Lengthen the exhalation
Stage III – Lengthen the inhalation
Stage IV – Lengthen the exhalation and inhalation
Ujjayi Stage V through VIII (!!) are done seated in swastikasana (seated cross-legged pose), padmasana (lotus), virasana (heros pose), etc. with the head in jalandhara bandha (chin-lock, chin tucked to the neck).
Stage V – Observe the breath (like Stage I but now seated)
Stage VI – Lengthened exhalation (like Stage II)
Stage VII – Lengthened inhalation (like Stage III)
Stage VIII – Lengthened exhalation and inhalation (like Stage IV). BKS Iyengar finally calls this stage “ujjayi pranayama proper.”
AND! It continues on through Stage 13 in a similar manner adding inhalation and exhalation retention at increasingly advanced levels!
And I’m sure that is more than you ever wanted to know about ujjayi breath….