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Breath

  • For every asana, there is a defined number of inhalations and exhalations. Every movement in the Series is linked with an inhalation or exhalation. This aspect of the Ashtanga Yoga breathing technique is called the "vinyasa". The Series is like a piece of music, a composition in which every note has its defined place. Change one note, change one breath, and the composition goes out of tune, the rhythm of the practice fails. It is impossible to practise Ashtanga Yoga without an understanding of the breath or without the proper rhythm. Many asanas cannot be practised at all without the proper linking of the movement to the rhythm of the breath (try it with ardha baddha padmottanasana of the Fundamental asanas, for instance!).
  • On one hand, using the breath will make it possible to do certain asanas, to keep the balance, etc. This is the "technical" side of it. But we consider it more important to contemplate the mental effect. Yoga means to control the mind, to halt the eternal flicker and to be completely focused on the "Right here, right now". Keeping the mind busy with the counting of the breath helps to achieve a state of "moving meditation" without distractions from the world around us – and this is what we understand to be the purpose of the rigorous practice. This is the difference between yoga and contortionism.
  • "Ujjayi breath" is a frequently-used term in Ashtanga Yoga. "Ujjayi " means "victorious". This emphasizes the importance of the breath in Ashtanga Yoga. Explanations of ujjayi breath as a certain breathing technique which involves the creation of sounds in the throat etc. are, according to Manju Pattabhi Jois and David Williams, not correct because Shri K. Pattabhi Jois has never taught this.
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