Ujjayi Breath // Ocean Breath
Just as Downward dog is one of many asanas (yoga poses), Ujjayi breath is one of many Pranayama, or breathing, techniques.
Ujjayi, rooting in Sanskrit, translates to victorious breath. Commonly referred to as Ocean Breath, from the sound the technique creates when practiced properly.
In the Gheranda Samhita (very ancient and important yoga text that you will probably never hear about again), it is stated that Ujjayi breath allows one to be victorious over decay and death. What a claim for a fancy breathing technique, huh? I think the term “results may vary” fit in here.
When practiced correctly, Ujjayi breath creates a gentle constriction at the opening of the throat, forming a resistance to the passage of air. Sounds a tad counterintuitive, I know. The soft constriction creates a gentle pull of breath on inhalation and a steady, relaxed push on exhalation. The sound becomes soothing and rhythmic, comparable to the gentle crash of waves rolling in and out.
Why Practice Breathing at All?
I mean, our body does it automatically right? Why use 2 people for a 1 person job?
This question is really quite broad and deserves a much longer, evaluated and in-depth answer. For the sake of providing an article as opposed to a novel, I provided the explanation below.
Breath, just like strength or flexibility, is a physical endeavor. You learn and develop your mind-body connection over time, growing stronger and more effortless in your pursuit.
Breathwork gives the practitioner immediate feedback. Quick and shallow breathes indicate stress, anxiety, and distraction. While slow and deep rhythmic breaths indicate relaxation and focus. Breathwork requires the mind and body to share a common task, creating a deeper, one-pointed meditation.
By some, maintaining a steady and rhythmic breathing pattern is considered a priority during and outside of the asana practice. By controlling the breath, the mind becomes calm and the practitioner’s awareness is brought into the present moment.
This awareness is everything. With our eyes closed we remain completely aware of the near and far. This effortless awareness is the heart of yoga. It is believed (and supported to a level by science) that the conscious practice of breath control improves the practitioners physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
Ujjayi Breath is practiced to
Increase Flow of Energy
Pranayama Techniques, including Ujjayi Breath are used to cleanse the nadis, or energy channels of the body.
As a technique of Pranayama, the expansion of vital energy force, Ujjayi breath allows more prana (vital energy) to enter and flow freely through the mind and body. Helping the body overcome fatigue, stress, and negativity.
Steady breath control empowers and assist’s the practitioner in becoming, and remaining, grounded in their yoga practice.
Ujjaya Breath at first requires one pointed focus, but soon brings about steadiness of the mind and breath. Creating a deeper focus, bringing the practitioner to a meditative state.
When Ujjayi Breath is practiced with asanas the practitioner creates a stronger awareness. Poses, specifically the flow between them, becomes effortless. The practitioner syncs the breath to movements, finding a stronger balance and concentration.
Becoming absorbed in Ujjayi Breath allows the practitioner to remain in poses for longer periods of time. Whether it’s used dynamically in a flow of various poses or held steady in one, relaxed meditative pose.
Relieve physical and emotional strain
Deep breathing techniques create longer and slower breaths, strengthening the lungs and diaphragm.
The practice of Ujjayi Breath creates heat in the body and stimulates the vagus nerve, creating an overall calming effect on the body and nervous system.
Ujjayi breath creates heat in the body. This heat releases tension from the muscles and creates an overall calming effect.
I, like many of you, am a fan of cold-hard facts in the form of short YouTube videos. You can Click here for a video by Johns Hopkins Rheumatology that briefly describes the science of health benefits gained through breathwork.
How do I practice Ujjayi Breath?
Sit in any comfortable position with your eyes closed. Don't be afraid to set the scene. Light a candle or turn on the diffuser. Open a window if you are blessed with the serene sounds of nature, otherwise put on a calming playlist or find a quite space. Make sure all your senses are satisfied and happy.
Bring awareness to the breath. Inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils. Allowing time for the breath to become rhythmic and effortless.
When natural breath has been achieved, transfer awareness to the throat. Feel or imagine the breath being drawn in and out through the throat, rather than nostrils.
As the breathing becomes slower and deeper, gently contract the glottis to produce a soft snoring sound. Like a sleeping baby. Both inhalation and exhalation should be deep, slow, and controlled. Creating a pleasing sound that is unhurried and unforced and audible to the practitioner alone.
Begin with 10 breaths, and as you become more comfortable in the practice, increase to 5 minutes.
Once you feel comfortable in your Ujjayi Breath practice, it can be applied dynamically into our practice. Finding challenge and growth as we maintain the same relaxed quality of breath throughout asana practice.
If this is all new to you, it will take a few try's. Keep in mind that comfort and relaxation are key.
Ujjayi Breath is a practice. It takes time to grow and flourish. Focus on comfort and developing your own personal, organic practice.
Ujjayi breath is a technique that can be practiced alone or incorporated into the physical practice of yoga.
At the end of the day, any part of yoga becomes unique to the practitioner. We are constantly learning new techniques and allowing to flourish freely in our lives. Just as a flower grows to the size of its pot, we grow to the size of our soul. Keep expanding.