Ujjayi breathing is a method used in yoga, which is characterized by a soft and regular sound produced by the constriction of the throat, mouth closed. It is also called ” victorious breathing ” because it is supposed to enhance vitality and concentration. It’s not really a noise but rather a sound like the ocean heard in the shells!
The exact origin of the Ujjayi breath is without exact answer, but it is mentioned in ancient yoga texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is possible that this method of breath management has been used by yogis for thousands of years, as it is considered a key practice for purifying the body and mind.
The term “Ujjayi” is derived from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, and means “victorious” or “triumphant”. According to the yoga tradition, it is considered a sacred practice that helps to strengthen vitality and inner power.
Ujjayi breathing is a Pranayama (breathing exercise) practiced by breathing in and out through the nose while contracting the glottis, which produces a sound similar to a wave breaking on the shore. The contraction of the glottis creates a resistance to the air that slows down the breath and allows to control the energy. This pranayama is often used during asanas (yoga postures) and meditation.
Beyond its practice in yoga, Ujjayi is also used in respiratory therapy to help people with breathing disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. It is also considered a wellness practice to calm the mind and improve concentration.
How to practice Ujjayi?
Here are the different steps to set it up, as well as the mistakes to avoid during a session:
The main steps:
Find a comfortable position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Make sure your spine is straight and your body is relaxed. Posture is very important.
Start breathing through your nose : Open your mouth and breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Breathe in slowly and deeply until your lungs are full of air.
Contraction of the glottis: Close your glottis slightly behind your throat. This should create a slight resistance to the air passing through your throat.
Exhale: Exhale gently and slowly through your nose while maintaining glottis contraction. Try to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation.
Repeat the practice: Repeat the Ujjayi breath for several minutes or as long as you like. You can gradually increase the duration of each breath and the total duration of the practice.
- For ventral diaphragmatic breathing, breathe in gently into the belly without forcing, then breathe out slowly. If you are familiar with bandhas, activate mula bandha at the end of the breath. Repeat this process until you feel a deep, long belly breath.
- For thoracic diaphragmatic breathing, inhale by spreading the ribs and inflating the chest, then exhale slowly. If you know uddiyana bandha, activate it at the end of the exhale. Otherwise, simply engage the abdomen to feel the breath in the rib cage. Repeat this exercise until you feel a deep, long chest breath.
- To engage your throat, you can use jalandhara bandha by lowering your chin and lengthening your neck on an exhalation, which causes the throat to tighten and the chest to rise. If you are not comfortable with jalandhara bandha, you can start with a slight closure of the glottis by breathing through a small opening in the throat. To do this, use the same muscles as for whispering and practice first exhaling with your mouth open, then inhaling in the same way, and finally closing your mouth to inhale and exhale.
- Repeat this several times, feeling your ribs expand and your chest expand on the inhale, and your ribs and chest return to their original position on the exhale. In yoga, remember to keep your mouth closed when breathing in and out, and to let the air in and out through your nose.
Mistakes to avoid:
- Do not force your breathing. Try to keep your breathing slow and steady.
Do not try to tighten or stretch your throat excessively.
Avoid getting out of breath or tired. Ujjayi breathing is a gentle, slow method that should help you relax and focus.
Do not try to hold your breath for long periods of time. This can cause tension and discomfort in the body.
The benefits of Ujjayi breathing
Respiratory system: helps improve airflow in the lungs, which can help strengthen respiratory muscles and improve lung capacity.
Cardiovascular system: may help reduce blood pressure, improve circulation and strengthen the heart.
Nervous system: can help calm the nervous system by reducing the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Digestive system: can help stimulate the digestive system and improve digestion by reducing stress levels.
Nervous system: can help calm the nervous system, reducing anxiety levels.
Concentration: can help improve concentration by stimulating the flow of oxygen to the brain.
Stress management: can help reduce stress levels by allowing the mind to focus on the present moment and release negative thoughts.
By practicing this breathing technique regularly, you can improve your overall health, mental well-being and quality of life.
Applications of Ujjayi breathing
Ujjayi breathing has many applications, whether in yoga sessions or in your daily life. Here are some examples:
In yoga sessions:
Ujjayi breathing is often used in vinyasa yoga sequences to help practitioners synchronize their breathing with their movements. It can also be used in postures held to help maintain attention and calm thoughts.
It is also used in certain yoga practices such as pranayama to help balance the body’s energy channels and to increase breath awareness.
Day to day :
Ujjayi breathing can be practiced anywhere and anytime to help reduce stress and calm the mind. It can be useful in stressful situations such as traffic jams or moments of conflict.
It can also be practiced before sleep to help calm restless thoughts and promote restful sleep.
Finally, it can be practiced to help improve concentration and productivity, especially when it is necessary to stay focused for long periods of time.
In conclusion, Ujjayi breathing is a simple and effective breathing technique that can be practiced in many situations, whether in yoga sessions or in daily life. By practicing it regularly, you can improve your physical and mental well-being.
Discover our complete article on pranayama and discover several ways to manage your breath and observe the effect on you. You may want to take a yoga class with Pranayama.