Ocean Breath

This breath practice focuses on making our breath audible. It can serve as a reminder that life is expressing itself though us. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, we can practice this breath and invite ourselves into greater spaciousness. Clearly this does not happen right away. It takes time.

The sound of our breath is a primal reminder. The first sound that we hear as human being is of our mother’s heartbeat in the womb. Her breath also moved us and provided the first messages of care and love. From a larger story perspective, this breath connects us not just to our mothers, but to all of our ancestors. I takes us back to our ocean relatives swimming in a salty ocean much like our blood. It invites us back to the pattern of ebb and flow of tides.

Taking time each day to practice this breath, while in bed or in any kind of activity, especially when we begin to notice that we are moving down the autonomic nervous system ladder away from social engagement toward flight/fight or freeze can help us remain present in our bodies.

When practicing yoga poses as a flowing sequence, ocean breathing transforms the movement into a meditation.

The Practice

To learn this breath practice, start from an easy seated pose/sukhasana.

Place your non-dominant hand on your lap or knee. The other hand place cup in front of your mouth.

Inhale through your nose and exhale with your mouth open, letting the breath out through the back of the throat. Do an even inhale and exhale by counting in your mind to four for each. Imagine fogging up a mirror. Notice the sound you make as you do this. Do this about for about 10 cycles (One inhale and exhale is one cycle).

When comfortable and noticing the back of the throat, do 10 cycles where you inhale through your mouth but making the same sound through the back of the throat as in the previous cycle. That is, draw the inhale through the back of the throat. Keep the exhale as you did previously. Practice to where you notice the sound evenly both on the inhale and exhale. The inhale is usually more challenging.

Once you have sensed the breath and can hear it in the inhale and exhale, practice with your mouth closed. Inhaling for four
making a whispering/hissing/ocean sound and exhaling for four
making a whispering/hissing ocean sound.

As simple as this may seem, it takes practice and warm up. I usually find that at the start of my practice my inhale is soundless. It’s after a bit of warming up that I can begin to hear
the sound and sense the throat caressing the breath.

As you do this practice, remember to keep the flow of the breath without stopping on the inhale or exhale. Don’t hold your breath at either end. You are like the ocean waves coming in and going out. Notice if you have any tension in your face and jaw. If you do, gently draw your attention there and release. Placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth is also helpful.