The Ins & Outs of Ujjayi Breathing

Still your mind, calm your nervous system, reduce stress, and more with Ujjayi breathing…

Pranayama is a key element of traditional yoga practices, and just like with asanas or poses, there are many different forms of pranayama. If you’ve been practicing pranayama techniques for a while, you’ve probably run across the technique called Ujjayi breath, which translates roughly to “ocean-sounding breath.”

What Is Ujjayi Breathing?

Ujjayi breath is a pranayama technique where the back of the throat is slightly constricted, creating a low hissing sound when you breathe. It’s not difficult, but it may take some practice to master. While it may feel odd at first, you’ll soon discover that there are many benefits to breathing this way. Here are just a few of the reasons why you may want to add Ujjayi breathing to your practice, according to

  1. Builds inner heat
    This slow, constrained breathing builds internal body heat which makes stretching safer and prepares the body for deeper expressions of yoga poses.
  2. Increases focus and concentration
    The ujjayi breath links the mind, body, and spirit to the present moment and improves concentration. This cultivates richness and depth in your practice and boosts your presence and awareness.
  3. Boosts vitality
    This pranayama is used in many styles of yoga classes, like ashtanga, Jivamukti, Kundalini, and power yoga, as it builds endurance, energy, and stamina.
  4. Reduces stress and tension
    Making this calming sound encourages the release of muscular tension and activates the vagus nerve. This, in turn, switches on the “rest and renew” or parasympathetic activity of the nervous system.
  5. Calms the body and mind
    Ujjayi pranayama lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate helping to calm the mind and reduce anxiety.
  6. Balances the energy channels
    Ujjayi pranayama cleanses and stimulates the nadis (subtle channels of the body) and encourages the activation of the Sushumna nadi to balance out the flow of prana and balance the chakra energy centers. This balancing effect helps to reduce pain, promote healing, and to harmonize the endocrine system.

How to Practice Ujjayi Breathing

While different instructors use different methods of explaining how to do the Ujjayi breath, the way that made the most sense to me was described as opening your mouth as you exhale, and imagining trying to fog up a window or mirror just in front of your face.

Now, keep that “Haaa” sound as you close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Practice lengthening your exhales, and maintaining this method of breathing as you breathe more slowly and deeply.

You don’t have to try and make the sound especially loud – just do what feels good to you – but you should be able to hear that distinctive “ocean sound” yourself. With just a bit of practice, you’ll soon find yourself enjoying many of the benefits listed above!


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