Is it really ujayii (or ujjayi) breath in Ashtanga practice?

Written by  //  February 1, 2012  //  Asana Technique, Ashtanga, David Garrigues  //  No comments

The “cybershala” has been all abuzz about Sharath’s comment that the ashtanga breath is not really ujayii breath. Kino reported that Sharath said that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) “didn’t speak English really well” and that …

the ujjayi breath is meant to be a pranayama practice, the practice breathing is just free breathing with sound. … The breath during the practice should be long and deep so that each and every part of the body can feel the breath, from the toes to the top of the head, and the blood circulation is going properly.

That left Steve Cahn gnashing his teeth about whether to take this at face value and how his practice is supposed to change:

Am I suddenly supposed to stop ujjayi breathing? Did Sharath maybe demonstrate what he meant and, as I’ve been taught, he’s doing what I think of as “ujjayi” breath?

Given that Sharath also talked about the importance of patience for yoga practitioners, Steve calls for everyone to take time to “reflect, consider and — if need be — correct what I think I’m reading.”

All very well, but the question remains whether the usual instruction of ujayii breath is correct, or misleading. So, also via Steve, here is David Garrigues talking about the breath, notably stating that “Guruji said medium breath,” like Goldilocks, not too long, not too short.

Guruji said, “Medium Breath” from David Garrigues on Vimeo.

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