If you have practised yoga before, you might have heard a yoga teacher say to use your ujjayi breath during the practise, and then all of a sudden your neighbour starts to breath so loudly. When you just start with yoga it is a funny breath, more experienced yogi’s do not practise without using this breathing techique.
What is the Ujjayi Breath?
Uijayi breath is a form of pranayama (breathing exercise) often translated as victorious breath.
B.K.S. Iyengar explains this in his book ‘light on pranayama’
‘The prefix ‘ud’ means upwards or expanding. It also conveys the sense of pre-eminence and power. ‘Jaya’ means conquest or succes, and, from another point of view restrain. In ujjayi the lungs are fully expanded, with the chest thrust out like that of a mighty conqueror.’
Sound of the ocean
Another name for it is ocean breath, since this breath has a particular sound, that resembles the sound of the ocean.
In the beginning it can be strange to do this breath, because of it’s sound, though when you are in a full yoga class you will notice that you are not the only one doing it. Actually it’s sound is quite comforting.
How to do the Uijayi breath
To create the Ujjayi breath, you must contract the back of the throat. It is the same constriction you make when you whisper.
- Open your mouth, exhale in a way you would do when you fog a mirror. Try this a couple of times.
- Close your mouth and try to keep the contraction in the back of your throat. Imagine that on the inhale you create a Sa sound and on the exhale Ha. This pattern of Sa-Ha; Sa-Ha; Sa-Ha…. will create the sound of rolling waves. Breath in and out through your nose – Your mouth stays closed all the time.
- Practise this a couple of times and then stop controlling you breath, relax a few minutes.
Now you are familiar with the ujjayi breath you can do this excercise
- find a comfortable sitting position. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor with legs crossed
- close your eyes
- Breath in for 4 counts with Ujjayi
- Breath out for 4 counts with Ujjayi
- Repeat this for 5 to 10 minutes. – Set a timer
When to do it?
Ujjayi breath can be performed any time of the day. Though it is nice to practise the breath in a quiet space where you really can focus. I always practise the breath in the morning after my shower, before breakfast.
Consistency is the key in order to experience the benefits of the breath.
What are the benefits
It will help you to stay focused during the asana practise
By doing the breath regulary it will improve you concentration power. During a yoga class it will help to stay focussed on the postures, instead of being in your mind thinking about the things you have to do after the class. Furthermore it will allow you to stay longer in the postures.
It regulates the heating of the body
The air passing through your throat and lungs creates heat in the body. You can compare it holding your thumb to the end of a garden hose, it will become stiffer and stronger. This is exactly what happens to the breath, the stream of air is stiffer and stronger and this creates the heat. The internal organs will be warmed up from the inside, massaged by the air. This will protect them while stretching the body.
It strenghtens the nervous and digestive system
Ujjayi yoga also has positive effects on the digestive system and can help to alleviate when your stomach is upset when you have irregular bowel movements.
The breath can assist in releasing tension in the body
Since you calm down your nervous system, the brain will send information to your muscles that they can relax.