Ujjayi Pranayama is a breathing technique that helps to gain mastery over the flow of the breath. It does so by regulating the flow at the throat level - specifically - the glottis.
Ujjayi Pranayama can be used during both the inhalation and exhalation phases of the breathing cycle.
In particular, this is useful for regulating the breath in the Complete Yogic Breath at a 1:1 Ratio and in Rhythmic Breathing at a 1:2 ratio - which we’ll be doing next.
Benefits of Ujjayi:
- It is used in yoga therapy to soothe the nervous system and calm the mind.
- Produces a profoundly relaxing effect at the whole pranic level.
- Helps to relieve insomnia and may be practised in Shavasana just before sleep.
- Ujjayi is also said to alleviate fluid retention.
- Lengthens Complete Breathing cycles and helps to draw your attention into the bliss of the present moment.
Here's how you can practice:
Sit in any comfortable position. Close the eyes and consciously relax the whole body.
Take your awareness to the breath flowing in and out of the nostrils. Simply allow the breathing to be calm and gentle.
After a couple of minutes begin to use Complete Breathing and transfer your awareness to the throat.
Try to feel or to imagine that the breath is being drawn in and out through the throat and not through the nostrils; as if inhalation and exhalation are taking place through a small hole in the throat.
As the breathing becomes slower and deeper, gently contract the glottis so that a soft snoring sound like the breathing of a sleeping baby is produced in the throat.
The inhalation sounds as if you are saying a gentle - SA.
The exhalation sounds like a gentle - HA.
When Ujjayi is practised correctly there will be a gentle simultaneous contraction in the abdomen. This happens by itself, without any effort being made.
Both inhalation and exhalation should be long, deep and controlled.
Once you feel you've mastered it you can incorporate when using the Complete Breathing Practice Time video. You will be able to do much longer breath cycles when using Ujjayi!
Try not to make any of these common mistakes:
The sound of the breath should not be very loud. It should just be audible to the practitioner but not to another person unless they are sitting very close.
Don't contort the facial muscles when doing ujjayi. This is unnecessary, try to relax the face as much as possible.
Do not contract the throat too strongly, the contraction should be slight and subtle.
In the video I also show another technique called Straw Breath. It's a simple way of slowing down the flow of the outgoing breath through the mouth.
Straw breath essentially achieves the same result on the exhalation as Ujjayi except it's easier to master.
Simply purse your lips, keeping your cheeks soft, blow the breath out through your lips as if you had a straw in your mouth.
Imagine your breath is like a fine silken thread, try to regulate an even steady flow outwards through the middle of the straw.
You will find it is soothing to the senses and has a very calming effect on the mind!