Ujjayi breath is a common yogic breathing technique where a soft oceanic sound is created by constricting the vocal folds in the throat. Also called Victorious Breath, it sounds like a faraway ocean, or your fans cheering for you! Try Ujjayi Breath for calm focus as you sit in meditation, practice yoga, or go about your day as a way to keep you anchored in the present moment.
I was taught Ujjayi breath in one of the very first yoga classes I ever attended, and although it took a little while for me to figure out how to find ease with it, now it’s become my number one tool in my conscious breathing toolbox. It’s also a gateway to controlling your breath for better respiratory function, improving blood pressure and overall quality of life. There are even some studies that connect Ujjayi breath with better immune function in cancer patients. Personally I use it to stay present, and to help lengthen my breath with smooth control, in order to regulate my own nervous system.
Ujjayi breath has a very soft sound to it. This sound is creating by lightly constricting the throat, or vocal folds, as if you were whispering or fogging up a windowpane. Except the mouth is closed. The sound itself is very calming and light, never forced. Never as loud as Darth Vader’s breathing.
Because it is a smooth, controlled breath, practicing Ujjayi can help you avoid gulping air in, or just huffing the air out. In this way we can really explore lengthening the breath, and in turn calming the nervous system. It’s as if you were sipping air slowly through a straw, sweetly savoring it and releasing it out luxuriously, like a stream of oil flowing, smooth and uniform. Even inhale, even exhale.
Ujjayi Pranayama is detailed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written by Yogi Swatmarama in the 15th century. He writes, “closing the mouth, inhale with control and concentration, so that the breath is felt from the throat to the heart and produces a sonorous sound…it helps relax the physical body and the mind, and develops awareness of the subtle body and psychic sensitivity.”
This oceanic sound really helps you become more conscious of your breath – by itself Ujjayi breath can be a concentration practice. We can also control our breath better, because as we lightly narrow the throat, we’re increasing airway resistance and controlling airflow so that each phase of the breath cycle can be prolonged to an exact count. It helps me breathe more slowly, show up more fully. When we can consciously slow down the breath, or regulate the length of inhalations and exhalations, we can regulate our own nervous systems.
Once you get the hang of Ujjayi breath on its own, see if you can practice Ujjayi breath while doing something else – of course, yoga comes to mind, but maybe you have PT exercises you can add the breath to, or try it while you’re out walking. Let me know how it goes!
Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review
Personal Practice over the last 10 years
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