Feeling Stressed? Take a Break to Recharge With Victory Breath
Do you ever want to just pull your hair out midafternoon? If stress from work, family, and a faulty economy aren't enough, it can be maddening just to look out your sunny window midday while you're stuck in the office. A simple breathing technique can help you calm down and communicate from nature—even from the confines of your cubicle. Last weekend I was lucky enough to be teaching yoga at Oakley's Learn to Ride celebrity surf trip in Santa Barbara, Calif. Spending time teaching yoga so close to the waters edge reminded me that I'm always trying to teach my students that their breath should sound like the ocean.
This type of breath is called ujjayi, or Victory Breath. The idea is that it gives you strength and power—and a sense of victory. It's a little challenging on the lungs, but that is the point; it is almost like weight lifting on the lungs, challenging them to work harder than they usually do. You can perform Victory Breath anywhere—in your car, in line at the grocery store, on an airplane. Simply sit or stand comfortably to start. Begin with your mouth open and make a “ha” sound almost like you were a snake ready to strike. This is a “ha” that happens in the back of your throat. It's a throaty “ha,” not a gentle exhale. Try this a couple of times to really get the hang of it and the placement in the back of the throat.
Now, close your mouth, but try to get the same “ha” sound from the back of your throat. You wont be able to—this time the breath is coming out of your nose since your mouth is closed—but the effect is the same. Instead of an open, free breath sound, the sound is slightly constricted. It's a soft hollow sound in the back of the throat. Keep the constriction in the back of your throat as you continue inhaling and exhaling. Your breath should sound hollow like the ocean (or some people think it even sounds like Darth Vader).
Learning this breath is tricky, so email me any questions or see a local yoga teacher to make sure you're doing it correctly. Everything worthwhile takes practice, so just close your eyes, pretend you're sitting by the ocean—not your office, connect to the flowing waves, and breathe along with them.