Learn how to practice Ujjayi Breath, an ancient Pranayama
You may have gone to a yoga class and heard the teacher ask you to use Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath).
Maybe you were like Ujawhat now? Or maybe you went into total panic, or felt shame for not knowing.
Yoga terminology can be intimidating and in many cases, teachers don’t have the time to explain some things in every class. So they just assume that you know or will find out.
This post is all about teaching you all you need to know about Ujjayi breath.
What is Ujjayi Breath?
Ujjayi breath is a pranayama technique, a breathing technique often used in flow classes.
It helps to anchor the mind to the breath and to synchronize Breath and Movement.
I find that this breath also helps me in my regular Hatha yoga class because it helps to control the breath. Learning to control the breath helps in any yoga practice, actually, because you become more aware and more attuned to your breathing.
So it’s really a great practice to learn, as it will help you to breathe deeper, hold the breath for longer, which will, in turn, help you to move a little slower in your flow, in your movements, or hold poses with more ease and grace. You’ll feel calmer and enter into stillness more easily because your mind will be anchored to the sound and vibrations of your breath.
Sound of the ocean
Indeed, this is a breath with sound. It’s also referred to as Ocean breath, because it mimics the sound of the waves. The sound it produces is like a lullaby to the mind and the body so that you have something to focus on and gives a rhythm to your practice. It syncs you up.
Maybe you’ve heard people in your class breathe loudly, and chances are they are doing Ujjayi breath. But it doesn’t have to be super loud. You should be able to hear yourself breathe but it’s not about being the loudest. It’s about making this noisy vibration.
To begin, come into a comfortable seat, any way you choose, you can have your back against the wall. Make sure you’re rooting down through your sit bones and find a lift through your spine and the crown of your head. Shoulders should stay relaxed, and palms gently laying on your knees or thighs.
If you want to, you can close your eyes. Start by noticing your natural breath. Just breathe in and out through the nose.
Noticing the ebb and flow.
And then gently open your eyes again. So now we’ll be inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. What we want to do when we exhale out through the mouth is to make a HA sound.
Your jaw is nice and open, relaxed, and you’re really just pushing the air out as you exhale, making this HA sound.
Do this a few times.
So what you’re feeling here when you’re doing this HA is that you’re finding a little constriction in your throat, which is helping to control the flow of air out. So I like to imagine I have a mirror in front of my face and like I’m trying to create fog on it.
Once more inhale through the nose, exhale out with sound. Great.
Now what we want to try and do is the same thing, but with closed lips. Sometimes I like to place my hand on my throat to feel the subtle constriction.
The next step is to do the sound on the inhale also, and usually, that’s way harder than on the exhale. So give yourself space and time to get there. It’s okay. If you don’t do it and succeed at first. With practice, it will come.
After a few minutes of practice, release and gently come back to your natural breath.
Why do Ujjayi Breath?
Picture a fire hose or a garden hose. So you can actually tighten the little cap on the end or loosen it. If you choose the latter, water is going to spray all over the place. In all directions. You won’t really have control over where the spray is going and that’s what happens when we just breathe without this constriction.
On the other hand, tightening the hose cap gives you more control. In your throat this is creating this slight constriction of your oesophagus. The result is a better and more controlled flow of water that you can actually guide in one direction. The flow is more focused, more concentrated, and that is what we want because we have way more control over where the breath goes and it increases our power.
As with most pranayama exercises, the objective is to master your body, and senses, and control the life force (energy) circulating within you.
So there you have it. I hope this short tutorial helps you to understand how to practice Ujjayi breath and why.
Drop any questions you have in the comments below, and let me know how it went for you.
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Let’s heal people and the world together.