If you have a physical yoga practice, ujjayi is the breathing technique you need to know.
Even if you don’t do yoga, this technique is still one you should have in your breathing repertoire.
The ujjayi breath, or “victorous breath,” is both calming and re-energizing. I use it during my yoga practice and throughout the day when I need to recenter and focus my mind.
Ujjayi is said to tone the lungs, strengthen the diaphragm, and assist in the healthy flow of prana (life force) throughout the body.
It has made a tremendous difference in my yoga practice, and I use it throughout my entire practice, every time.
Unfortunately, many students are not familiar with this technique or have a poor understanding of how it’s done.
Below, I’ll explain the method and then provide some helpful tips.
Here’s the basic technique:
Begin in a seated position with the spine erect. Sitting upright in a chair will do. Gently pull in your abdominals and the front of your core, from the pubic bone to the breastbone. This is a very subtle action.
Start to breathe in and out through the nose, lengthening both your inhalations and exhalations. Try to make both inhalations and exhalations steady and of equal length.
Allow the chest to expand as you inhale and deflate as you exhale.
Once you have a steady breath going through the nose, gently constrict the muscles in the back of your throat (the glottis). These are the same muscles you use when you whisper. So imagine you’re about to whisper and keep these muscles engaged.
This constriction should cause a hissing or oceanic noise as you breath in and out through your nose. Some think its sounds like Darth Vader, if that helps. If you start to sound like you’re snoring, your are constricting too much.
Relax a little.
It takes practice to achieve the balance of effort with ease (sthira with sukha) that this technique requires.
This balance is what the practice of yoga is about.