I learned “Ocean Breath” from a wonderful yoga teacher, Marcia (Me-esha) Albert, at the original Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord New York (now incorporated into Isabella Freedman retreat center). Based on yogic foundations, this breathing technique takes a little practice, but I find that it can have a very calming effect. I think of it like a portable beach that I can carry around when I need to relax or re-energize. It’s great for times of stress and waiting. The galim, the waves of my breath, my soul connection, can calm and center me during waves of emotion or thought. Here is a quick tutorial in both printed and audio form:
You can learn by listening to the audio, or read the same information here:
We will learn this in two parts:
First, we will practice the “Ocean Sound.” If you have learned Ujayi breath in yoga class, you already know this:
Begin by breathing in and out softly through your mouth. On your exhalations, slightly constrict the back of your throat, making a soft whispering sound. You can imagine that you are softly trying to fog up a mirror with your breath. As you become comfortable doing this, maintain the slight constriction of the throat during your inhalations as well.
When you can do this comfortably with your mouth open, gently close your mouth and begin breathing through your nose. Keep the same slight constriction in your throat, almost as if sipping softly through a straw. You should be able to hear a sound like distant ocean waves as you breathe through your nose. Keep your mouth closed, but your lips soft. The sound should be audible to you alone.
Now that you have learned the sound, we will add the waves of breath. You can learn and practice this Ocean Breath either lying down or comfortably seated (You can also do it standing once you have learned it). Breathing in through your nose, draw the breath naturally into your diaphragm, a deep belly breath. Feel the breath in three phases: softly filling your belly, expanding your ribs gently front and back, filling to the very top of your chest. Full but not forced. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Gently breath out through all three zones, let your exhalation be as long as your inhalation. There is no holding of the breath; keep it a continuous flow in and out. Ideally sense the exhale, too, from the bottom up. First from the diaphragm, then the ribs, then the chest, from bottom to top. Doing it that way, you may have an even stronger sense of the wave-like quality of the breath.
Now if you have not already done so, combine the ujjayi wave sound, made by breathing with the slight constriction in back of the throat, with the long full breath flowing into belly, ribs, chest, then slowly back out from diaphragm, ribs,chest.
This is the complete Ocean Breath: You hear a gentle wave sound in your breath, at the same time that you can feel the breath making a wave motion in your body.
You might feel your breath as a wave of light flowing up and down your body. You might imagine yourself by the sea, breathing with the rhythm of the waves. Galim, Galim, waves of breath, waves of life. You can do this just for a few breaths or continue this breathing for several minutes at a time, then return to breathing naturally and notice how you feel.
Featured Image at top: Waves on the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, JHD