What is Ujjayi breath and how to use it

Ujjayi (pronounced ooh-JAI-yee) breath is a powerful pranayama technique that not only enhances our physical practice but also brings serenity and focus to our minds. Often referred to as “victorious breath” as it can perk up one’s confidence like a victorious warrior. 

This is a technique that builds heat in the body and relaxes the mind and it is a powerful asset for students of all levels. It enhances and empowers your practice and allows you to go deeper into yoga postures.

Ujjayi breathing is also sometimes called “ocean breath” because when practised correctly, it creates a sound resembling ocean waves. 

Benefits of Ujjayi Breath

Ujjayi breath is one of the most important pranayama techniques described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the classical yoga text. Unlike some other forms of pranayama, which are typically performed in a seated position, you can use Ujjayi breath while practising asana as well. This classic breathing technique is popular in both hatha yoga and vinyasa yoga classes thanks to its many benefits and transformative effect. Here are some:

It calms the mind: The rhythmic sound of Ujjayi breath acts as an anchor, helping to quieten mental chatter and bringing us into the present moment. This soothing effect promotes mindfulness and encourages a sense of peace during practice.

It improves focus: By directing our attention to the breath, Ujjayi breath aids in developing a single-pointed focus. This heightened concentration enables us to stay centred and avoid distractions, both on and off the mat.

It regulates body heat: Ujjayi breath has a warming effect on the body, helping to create internal heat, which is particularly useful in dynamic styles of yoga-like Dharma, Vinyasa and Ashtanga. This internal heat allows for a safer and deeper practice while also helping to release toxins.

It enhances endurance: As Ujjayi breath promotes a controlled and consistent flow of breath, it optimizes the intake of oxygen, supporting stamina and endurance during challenging postures.

How to Practice Ujjayi Breath

Step 1 – Begin by finding a comfortable seated position, either cross-legged on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.

Step 2 – Soften your face: Gently close your eyes, release any tension in your facial muscles, and let your jaw relax.

Step 3 – Inhale deeply: Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, feeling your lungs and diaphragm expand fully. As you inhale, contract the back of your throat, creating a gentle hissing sound at the back of your throat.

Step 4 – Exhale slowly: Now, breathe out slowly through your nose while maintaining the same constriction in the throat. Focus on the sound of your breath and let it be steady and controlled.

Step 5 – Maintain the flow: Continue this cycle of deep, steady breaths, keeping the constriction at the back of your throat consistent. You should hear a soft, gentle sound with each breath, similar to ocean waves.

Step 6 – Link breath to movement: Once you are comfortable with the Ujjayi breath in a seated position, integrate it into your asana practice. Coordinate each movement with the breath, allowing the breath to guide you through each posture.

Incorporating Ujjayi breath into your yoga practice is an invaluable tool for achieving a deeper mind-body connection. By mastering this powerful pranayama technique, you can elevate your practice to new heights, both physically and mentally. Remember, Ujjayi breath is a skill that develops with patience and practice, so be kind to yourself on this journey. Embrace the soothing rhythm of the oceanic breath, and witness the transformation it brings to your yoga practice and your life beyond the mat.