Tag Archives: meditation

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama means “victorious breath.” It is often practiced through the entirety of an ashtanga or flow yoga class. It is meant to be calming and rhythmic and help the practitioner focus. Slow, deep inhales followed by long, exhales of roughly the same length. The defining characteristic is the wheezy, ocean-like sound. Ujjayi is an audible breath performed by constricting the throat and tongue slightly while breathing in and out through your nose.

Try this. Sit up straight. Close your eyes. Take a breath in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth and whisper “hahhh”. Feel where it vibrates the back of the throat. Take another breath in through your nose and whisper “hahhh” but press the tongue to the roof of your mouth. Feel where your tongue touches the palate and how the jaw constricts slightly. That’s basically the shape you want for your mouth. Take another deep inhale though the nose and exhale though the nose while retaining the sound. Keep doing this while taking slow, deep abdominal-thoracic breaths.

Ujjayi Pranayama from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

I personally find it relaxing to perform ujjayi breaths and will consciously or unconsciously start doing it when I take deep breaths to relax or when I meditate. Because the breath is audible, you can focus on it better and thus counting your breaths and the length of your breaths becomes much easier. Because you are restricting the flow of air, you naturally breathe much slower with ujjayi breath and consequently much deeper.

One thing that I rarely hear mentioned about ujjayi breathing is the fact that it aides in spinal stabilization. The throat acts like a valve on abdominal-thoracic cavity. True abdominal bracing is done by creating pressure between the diaphragm and the perineum. However, the slight restriction on the breath helps create pressure as well. In situations where breath holding is ill-advised but some intra-abdominal pressure is necessary, ujjayi breath is a strong choice.


I keep coming back to the idea of healing. In the western terms “healing” means returning to health. That is path many of us are on whether we know it or not. Things we do should move us in that direction. Things that don’t move us toward health should be questioned.

I am starting to question the things I do and ask whether they are healing or not. I am also reflecting on all the various healing strategies I have learned throughout my life and wondering how I can start to incorporate some of them back into my life.

Many of us love to use and abuse our bodies, especially when we are young, but as you get older you realize your body has to last and in order to last, you need to start looking at and utilizing various healing strategies. Get to it!

Routine: The Enemy Or The Path To Success?

CrossFit seeks to build a program that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the unknown but for the unknowable. Varying workout elements provides the mechanism for creating a stimulus that is broad, general and inclusive. Any program, no matter how complete, contains within its omissions the parameters for which there will be no adaptation. Routine is the enemy.

However, there is a natural tension that exists between varied stimulus and ordered progression that leads to success in many known tasks. Routine is a double edged sword: it can provide the necessary framework for success or lead to gaping blindspots that lead to the loss of game, mission or life.

Routines are habits and like habits can be good or bad. A good habit like brushing and flossing can be preventative of future pain and disease. And a bad habit like smoking can lead ultimately to illness and death.

The two guiding principles should be dosage and balance.

A routine of exercising everyday is generally favorable. However if your exercise routine every day is the same chances are it will eventually become ineffective and possibly detrimental. For example, if you run 3 miles every morning, at first that might be a huge benefit to your health. However, if the stimulus ceases to be sufficient enough to drive adaptation, you will cease to adapt and get the benefit of that exercise. Secondly, the repetitive stress of running everyday can lead to orthopedic injuries.

Biologically speaking exercise works on the principles of stimulus and adaptation. You overload your body with some stimulus of force, distance or time and your body adapts to that stimulus by creating more muscle fibers or becoming better at gas exchange or becoming more metabolically efficient. When the stimulus ceases to exceed a certain threshold, the body ceases to adapt. That is why all programs vary the parameters over time and progressively get more challenging as the athlete adapts.

The body is wired for survival. If you ask your body to run, it will run. If you ask it to lift, it will lift. However, the body isn’t wired for optimum safety and mechanics. You have to teach it to run and lift with proper mechanics. Each foot strike when you run can send a force of greater than twice your bodyweight into your body. Multiply that by the thousands of foot strikes you will make running 3 miles per day, then ask yourself how long your body can tolerate that before something gives.

Balancing variance with routine is a skill that must be cultivated. Create good habits but make sure those good habits have lots of room for variation. I taught yoga for many years in New York City and sometimes we would be in a studio on the second floor and sirens and the other sounds of the city would bombard us through the windows or we would be in a room inside a gym blasting techno music right outside. And most people found it very challenging to concentrate and relax. I would always remind my student that anybody can go to a mountain retreat and meditate and find peace and quiet but the true object of meditation is to find peace and quiet while in the middle of the storm of noise in the city.

Setting aside 6 minutes of 60 minutes every day to exercise is a good routine, but make sure that within that time you allotted that you have made it hard and stressful and taken yourself outside your comfort zone.

Heavily Meditated

I, like many people especially crossfitters, am constantly trying to improve myself. I devour multiple forms of media (books, audiobooks, podcasts and videos) on self-improvement. Many of these sources will encourage the person seeking improvement to meditate. Meditation takes many forms but is almost universally regarded as a necessary practice for those wishing to live better lives. How does meditation work? Why does it work? What does it do? How will meditation help you? Like anything worthwhile you have to find out for yourself: it’s experiential.


I believe meditation is a gateway to self-acceptance and love which are pre-requisites to true growth and fulfillment. Without the ability to love and accept yourself as you are, any gains you achieve will never be enough to fulfill and satisfy you. I often fall out of practice with meditation and it is usually when I need it most, not when it’s most convenient. I invite you to start a meditation practice.

One of my go-to meditation practices is to simply count my breaths. I sit comfortably, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, close my eyes and begin counting my breaths. When I am inhaling I am focusing on the inhale and when I’m exhaling I focus on the exhale and when I lose count, I start over at one. Sometimes when I’m sitting on a train I simply start counting my breaths and decide at 10 breaths whether I’m done or wish to keep going. The goal is not to get more breaths or less breaths (although slower, more measure breathing is preferable). The goal is not to keep fastidious count and beat yourself up if you forget where you are (although you will almost definitely do that). The goal is just to be present to you and your body and learn to focus on one thing. You could count your heartbeats if you can sense them. You could count the ticks of your watch if it ticks loud enough. Just be present and attentive and let that be its own reward.