Ujjaayi (उज्जायी) Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम )
Ujjaayi (उज्जायी), means “one who is victorious”. Ujjaayi breath means “victorious breath. Also referred to as the psychic breath because of its positive effects on the mind.
- This breath can be performed while moving, standing, walking or sitting.
- Sit comfortably on the yoga mat using props or in a chair for seated practice.
- Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the sensation of the breath in and out through the nostrils.
- Imagine there a small opening or a constriction in your throat where the breath is being released making a soft whispering or hushing sound.
- Whisper ‘ha’ with an open mouth to feel the sensation in your throat.
- Then close your mouth and continue to produce the soft ‘ha’ sound. This time the sound will not be loud as the mouth is not open, but you should feel the sound being produced in your throat in a soft whisper.
- Although there is a constriction of the throat, the Ujjayi breath flows in and out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed.
- This hushing sound on both inhale and exhale is Ujjaayi Breath.
- One inhale and one exhale of this breath is considered one round. You can begin with 5 rounds. This seated practice is Ujjaayi Pranayama.
- You can slowly build up your practice to 10-20 rounds. When you are ready to modify your practice, please find a yoga instructor who has a long standing personal Pranayama practice to guide you.
- Breath should be long (dhirgha), smooth (sukshma).
- The sound of the breath is audible to the practitioner.
- Cover your ears to it hear it louder noticing that it sounds like the ocean.
- Become comfortable with Ujjaayi Breath in a seated practice before using during asana practice.
- The tongue may be placed upward touching the roof of the mouth in Jihva Mudra (tongue seal) or resting lightly in the center of the mouth.
- Train the ears to concentrate on the sound of the breath making it a Pratyahara (5th Limb of Raja Yoga) practice.
- Focus on finding a sense of relaxation and harmony than on the effortful performance of the breathing technique.
- This breath can be practiced anywhere, anytime.
- You may feel dryness in the throat initially. Please hydrate.
When can you use Ujjaayi Breath
When you’re agitated, angry, restless: Since the this breath is good for relieving agitation, try Ujjaayi breath whenever you are aggravated or stressed. You may notice a soothing effect.
When you’re nervous or anxious: The slow and rhythmic nature of the Ujjaayi breath is helpful to calm nerves. Next time you find yourself anxious try this breath to soothe yourself.
When you’re tired, lethargic, sleepy: This breath is also energizing, so use it to revitalize your energy and improve your alertness and concentration.
When you’re practicing asana, poses: Try focusing on Ujjaayi breathing while practicing asana, pose to help you stay focused as you flow from one posture to the next. Becoming absorbed in Ujjaayi allows you to remain in the asana for longer periods of time.
When you perform daily seated practice: Ujjaayi breath is an integral part of seated Pranayama, breathing practice. It trains the senses to go inward reducing distractions in order to prepare the mind for meditation.
- reduces postnasal drip
- clears sinuses, detoxifies the body
- trains the senses (Pratyahara – 5th Limb of Raja Yoga) to go inwards
- increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and is energizing
- builds internal body heat which relaxes the muscles allowing them to move safely in asana, reducing the risk for injuries
- regulates blood pressure
- Calming and soothing, relieves tension and anxiety
- Quiets the nervous system and calms the mind
- Diminishes distractions and increases feeling of self-awareness
- Allows you to remain present and grounded in the practice
- Practice induces concentration (Dharana – 6th limb of Raja Yoga)
- Because of Ujjaayi Pranayama, I have significant decrease in postnasal drip. Along with Dhirgha and Kapalabhaathi Pranayama, I am able to manage my seasonal allergies effectively.
- Ujjaayi allows me to practice deep breaths during asanas, poses and to be mindful through the challenges of a physical (vinyasa – sequencing) practice.
- Ujjaayi practice has also helped me go deeper in poses with a feeling of surrender. It is a reminder that I am constantly and compassionately guided to perform these movements, and to take a step back and observe my ego in action.
Next Post: Kapalabhathi Pranayama
Rama, Swami., Ballentine, Rudolf. M.D. 1978. Science of Breath. Himalayan Institute, Honesdale, PA