Ujjayi or “victorious breath”, is an ancient breathing technique that has been used to enhance yoga practice for thousands of years. Ujjayi breath is commonly referred to as “oceanic breath” because, if done correctly, your breath should sound similar to the oceans waves. This is because the inhalations can be compared to the water gathering, preparing to form a wave, while the exhalations can be compared to waves crashing against the shoreline. This rhythmic breathing helps to intertwine each yoga pose with a breath. The intertwining of movement and breath enhances both the mental and physical benefits of yoga.
Yoga provides bountiful amounts of health benefits. A lot of these health benefits come directly from practicing Ujjayi breath. Ujjayi provides both mental and physical benefits. Physically, Ujjayi breath brings balance to the cardio-respiratory system, increases oxygen in the blood, builds internal heat, detoxifies the body, and regulates blood pressure. Mentally and spiritually, Ujjayi breath releases feelings of irritation and frustration, relieves tension, helps bring rhythm and balance, detoxifies the mind, and increases feelings of self-awareness.
To practice Ujjayi breath, seal your lips and begin to take long and deep inhalations through your nose. Exhale slowly and thoughtfully through your nose while constricting the muscles in back of your throat. Try to make the inhalations and exhalations even to achieve that balanced and rhythmic sound. Start your Ujjayi breath in a not too strenuous pose such as Downward-Facing Dog. Once you have your baseline breath, try to maintain this rhythm throughout your yoga practice.
Getting the Ujjayi sound right can sometimes be hard to obtain. Some tricks to achieving that classic oceanic Ujjayi breath is to open your mouth and breath like you are trying to fog up a mirror. Repeat this a few times until you are familiar and comfortable with the sound. Once you get the hang of the sound with your mouth open, close your mouth and try and recreate that same sound. Sometime this sound is referred to as “Darth Vader” breath.
Ujjayi breath is primarily used during Hatha yoga to bring balance and rhythm into the flows. However, Ujjayi yoga can be incorporated into other aspects of life off of the mat. It can be used to settle agitation. Whenever you find yourself becoming agitated with a person or situation, try using Ujjayi breath to relieve stress and balance the mind. It can be used during exercising. Exercises that are aerobic such as running or cycling can benefit from Ujjayi breath by improving respiratory efficiency. It also can be used during nerve racking situations. The slow and rhythmic breathing is extremely good at settling jitters.
Ujjayi breath has been around for thousands years for a good reason. It brings so many wonderful benefits onto and off of the mat. It not only enhances the body physically, but mentally. It is a perfect but simple method to dealing with life’s conflicts and stresses.