The Yoga Ocean Breath

The Ocean Breath — sometimes called “rib breathing” or the “upward-moving breath” — oxygenates your blood. It stimulates your circulation and gives you a burst of energy. This dynamic breath awakens you and brings you into the present moment. It’s also a warming breath.

You emit a sound during the Ocean Breath — the sound (you guessed it) of an ocean breeze. You stay in your chest and fill your lungs from the diaphragm upward. To stay inflated, your lungs rely on a vacuumlike action inside your chest, and then you push out a full, deep, and complete exhalation through your nostrils. This breath is different from the Complete Breath (which we explain earlier in this chapter) because you mostly engage your chest and rib cage, and you gently contract your abdomen.

Follow these steps to practice the Ocean Breath:

Stand or sit comfortably with your spine straight.
Place your arms on your chest with the fingers of your right hand tucked into your left armpit and the fingers of your left hand tucked into your right armpit.
Close your eyes or gaze straight ahead with your windpipe open, your jaw and mouth relaxed, and your chin pointing gently downward.
Inhale to a count of six to ten, engaging the sipping muscles in the back of your throat as if you’re sipping through a straw, and feel your ribs opening and your breath filling to the top of your lungs. Inhale to whichever count you can manage best. Pay attention to the tip of your nose as you inhale. It enhances the sensation of filling your chest all the way up.
Gently, but with some commitment and determination, exhale steadily through your nostrils until the exhale is complete. Feel your breath passing from the back of your throat, across the roof of your mouth, and out your nostrils. You hear a hissing sound, something similar to the sound of a hose when you turn it on and the water begins rushing out. Never push too hard; this breath is dynamic, but never forced. Feel yourself releasing the air. When you push the air out, your abdominal muscles come into play a bit more. The exhale is something like a volcanic eruption that begins at the diaphragm and rises with increasing strength.

Take 10 Ocean Breaths; pause to rest; do 10 more; pause to rest again; and if you like the results, do 10 more for a total of 30 breaths. Then you can let your abdomen relax and your breath normalize once again.

Perfecting the Ocean Breath takes time, especially when you try smoothing out the transition between inhaling and exhaling, but stick with it. As yoga teachers say, “Breath into breath, moment into moment.”

As you get better at the Ocean Breath, you may begin to notice a subtle sensation, or tingling, in your spine. This subtle sensation begins in the base or bottom of your spine and moves gently upward. When you exhale, you may experience the gentle sensation of your breath moving downward, even though the air is leaving your throat and nose. See whether you can detect these two sensations — the tingling in your spine moving upward and your breath moving downward — meeting in your solar plexus. Try to feel the breath inside the breath. When the two sensations merge, you may experience an awakened inner consciousness and an overall sense of well-being.

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