Breathe Yoga: the warrior’s breathing

The warrior’s breathing (Ujjayi Pranayama)

In this article we want to deepen the often quoted “warrior’s breathing”, or “Ujjayi Pranayama” (as they call it in Yoga, the source of our inspiration for this method):

  • Some think that these words mean “breath of the victorious” due to the involved proud expansion of the chest
  • According to others, the term derives instead from the prefix “ud” (raise) joined to the word “jaya” (a form of Indian greeting) and means “what is expressed aloud”

In both cases the references are consistent and may help us remember the focal points of this technique:

  • Breathing the air by inflating the chest
  • Produce noise during the execution

What is the warrior’s breathing for?

Ujjayi breathing:

  • In combat it allows access to a portion of force that, otherwise, would be precluded (that can also be expanded by training)
  • During any physical effort it allows better control of the heat exchange between inside and outside as well as saving energy (read also The 6DKF’s combat breathing)
  • In stretching (the Shaolin “tendons transformation”) it allows to reach a deeper elongation of the positions
  • In terms of well-being, it generally improves our psychophysical state, giving body health and mind relaxation
  • It can even help in fighting insomnia, hypertension and much more

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All of this is possible because it:

  • Makes the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide more efficient (especially in relation to the poor breathing quality of untrained people, read Correct breathing)
  • Extends the phases of inhalation and exhalation
  • Facilitates stretching (read How to correctly perform stretching)
  • Combined with movement, it allows greater breath control
  • It produces a warming effect that increases body temperature (or Qi, if you want to look at the phenomeno on this perspective, read The use of Qi in the 6DKF’s meaning)
  • Slowing down the heart rate, it calms the nervous system and mind (generating relaxation, read Breathing for immediate relaxation)

How to use the warrior’s breathing?

To understand better what we are talking about

Before continuing it is important to make, 2 premises:

  • The glottis – The glottis is a valve that separates the pharynx from the larynx and the digestive tract from the airways; a part of it, the epiglottis, has the function of temporarily closing the airways when we swallow, avoiding letting go of the food “sideways”
  • 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s warrior breathing – It is important to stress that this is our method (we have various types of breathing); we are very keen to say that it is inspired by Yoga but it is not strictly the classical Ujjayi Pranayama

A note by Master Kongling – If you are an experienced Yoga scholar, you will find some differences with the classic methods but this should not be surprising: the reason is that Kung Fu has slow rhythms linked to well-being but also rapid ones linked to the time of combat, broken ones linked to unpredictability in the struggle, contingent needs linked to the application of defense / attack techniques (etc.).

How does it work

In our Kung Fu style, the warrior’s breathing works this way:

  • The air enters the lungs through the nose and / or in sync with the mouth (but this is an advanced level, let’s avoid it for now)
  • When we inhale, air enters the nostrils, passes through the sinuses, continues through the pharynx, passes the glottis, the larynx, the trachea up to the lungs
  • The technique allows the partial closure of the glottis, so that the air remains longer in the upper part (pharynx and nasal cavities)
  • This way the air remains for much longer in contact with the mucosa, rich in blood, which has the task of heating it
  • In combat terms the controlled air flow can replace, connect or add to the normal bodily functions, allowing us to amplify our defensive and attack capacity (all without, or partially without, exhausting muscular efforts)

In what circumstances does it make sense to use the warrior’s breathing?

The warrior’s breathing is very useful as it is a very flexible and omnivalent practice:

  • It can be implemented in any stance (standing, sitting, lying down, at 4 legs, etc.)
  • It is a must during 90% of the training exercises (but gradually it will become automatic also in the rest of the day)
  • After a good conditioning it shoud automatically appear and self-regulate in combat
  • It is perfect for stretching, recovery and tendons transformation sessions
  • We can use it for relaxation, as a preparation for meditation or to other types of breathing
  • It is effective in moments of anxiety and even to appease the perception of physical pain

A note by Master Kongling – As evidence of the validity and effectiveness of this technique I want to bring to the attention that, the simple fact of writing about the warrior’s breathing, has unconsciously made me using it: thus causing me a strong feeling of relaxation and well-being.

In the next article of this series, we will see how to execute it practically and how to make it an automatism of our body.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • How much attention do you pay to breathing during training? 

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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