To Ujayii or not to Ujayii, that is the question
While it may not be making the headlines of the New York Times yoga article, a subject is floating around what folks apparently refer to as the “Cybershala.” That subject? How you are supposed to breath during Ashtanga.
Seem simple enough? We’ve all been told to Ujayii breath, right?
Well, that’s starting to unravel. Sort of.
The trigger on this seems to have been Sharath’s recently saying that Ujayii breathing wasn’t what Guruji was talking about when he was teaching. Ujayii is a pranayama technique that involves an exhale that’s twice the length of the inhale.
Grimmly was smart enough to reach out toward the source on this. He emailed Nancy Gilgoff and got a response. It is at his blog, and I’ll just pull a tiny bit:
i never NEVER heard guruji say the word ujayii. he said to breath, “free breathing” is how he would say it. “breath with sound” was another of his pet phrases….perhaps this is why some interpreted it as ujaii….which is incorrect as ujayii is a pranayama where the exhale is twice as long as the inhale….we are to bring the inhale/exhale to the same length so ujayii is the wrong word to use when describing the breath in the ashtanga practice.
She goes on to say that she’s happy Sharath brought this up as it is something that needs clarification.
For me (and I think I speak for Bobbie here, too), the issue isn’t much of an issue. We understand that when we’re being told to Ujayii we really are being told to “breath deep.” It is an equal in and out, and one that should fit and follow the movements of the practice.
Obviously any breath retention would “stop” you, so that doesn’t make sense if you think about it.
The issue, though, seems to be that a lot of people in the West have redefined the meaning of “Ujayii” from its pranayama roots to a more general one. (I’d say it is a “bastardization” that is akin to how “yoga” has come to effectively mean just “asana.”)
I can understand how Gilgoff would want that fixed. Maybe that process has started.
For our practices, though, the answer is easy: Breath deep. Breath with sound. Breath with control. Move with your breath.
Posted by Steve