(oo-jy [rhymes with “pie”]-ee)
ujjayi = to conquer, to be victorious
As part of our Home Yoga Practice series we begin with learning how to breathe. Sounds odd, I know. You probably take breathing for granted, it’s innate. But, one of the things that makes yoga so powerful verses other forms of physical activity is the deliberate use of the breath. Ujjayi breathing is a specialized breathing technique. When coupled with asana practice we create breath syncronzied movement. It is important for the newbie yogi to spend some time with this way of breathing.
Ujjayi breathing is a breathing method employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. In relation to Yoga, it is sometimes called “the ocean breath”. Unlike some other forms of pranayama the ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana (posture) practice.
Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly, activating the first and second chakras (energy centers), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.
Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The “ocean sound” is created by moving the glottis as air passes in and out. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, the passage of air through which creates a “rushing” sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening of which is, in part, the purpose of ujjayi. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a manner that causes no distress to the practitioner.
- Sit up straight
- With your mouth and eyes closed
- Take a full inhale & then exhale fully with your eyes focused toward to the third eye point, take a few deep cleansing breathes here.
- Take a deep breath in with the mouth still closed, but on the exhale, OPEN THE MOUTH & exhale out with deep Hhhhaaaa sound. Practice this a few times.
- Now midway through the exhale, CLOSE YOUR MOUTH and continue with the Hhhhaaaa breath.
- Start with 5 to 8 minutes of practice, gradually increase your time to 10 to 15 minutes. When finished return to normal breathing for a minute or two, then lie down in Shavasana (Corpse Pose) for a few minutes. Soon it will become second nature during your asaana (posture) practice.
The main idea is to create a rhythm with the breath. With each inhale and exhale you will ride each posture gracefully flowing from one into the next. The sound of the breath will become your mantra and your mind’s focus. It is very important to listen to the breath. It will be your guide to the quality of your practice. If you are applying too much effort, your breath will become labored or constricted. With too little focus on the breath, you will be overcome by the sound of your own thoughts. When you can maintain awareness upon your breath your practice will become a moving meditation.
Enjoy your practice and check out more of our Home Yoga Practice series here.
Namaste, Stacy & the Y3 team!