Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath or Ocean Sounding Breath): Steps & Benefits of Ujjayi Breathing


This technique has a name which means "the victorious breath". Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word composed of the words "inhale and exhale", preceded by the prefix "Uj", which means upward movement and followed by the word "Jaya", which means conquest, victory. Therefore, it is usually translated as victorious breath. But why this name? Because Ujjayi breathing is a method by which the lungs are fully expanded in all directions, then the chest expands and moves upward in a similar way to that of a victorious warrior.

What does the Ujjayi technique consist of?

The stages of the Ujjayi breathing technique are different: for simplicity we distinguish between breath and pranayama (which includes the retention of the breath). To practice Ujjayi, one must constrict the back of the throat, similar to the constriction that occurs when speaking in a whisper. Therefore, a breath is heard which is often compared to the sound of the sea. Although there is a narrowing of the throat, the Ujjayi flows in and out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed. Having made this clarification, let's see what Ujjayi is, the victorious breath, how to practice it and the benefits it entails.

Why practice Ujjayi with the asana?

When practicing Ujjayi with the asana, several advantages are obtained. The moment of inspiration is extended a lot and more oxygen is received which leads to greater vitality. By extending the moment of exhalation, more toxins are expelled. But the real difference between Ujjayi breath and a normal long breath is the warming developed when the glottis is slightly contracted, a heat that develops from within and that makes the body more flexible, thus preparing us for a safer practice. The increase in the body's heat level also promotes perspiration, so that more toxins can be eliminated and become healthier.

Ujjayi has a calming effect on the mind

But the benefits of Ujjayi are not limited only to the physical sphere. By observing the quality of the breath during the practice of yoga, that is, by listening to its sound, we are told a lot about our attitude in the practice: a tense, irregular breathing, a forced breath, for example, can be clear indicators that we should change something, let yourself go more. The yogic text Gheranda Samhita states that, if practiced correctly, Ujjayi has a calming effect on the nervous system and mind, as it has a deeply relaxing effect, slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.

Ujjayi breath is therefore a powerful tool of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses): focusing on the sound of our breath, it becomes easier to increase our concentration during the practice: this is the first step to access the meditation movement. Therefore, the main reason for practicing Ujjay is still the mind.

Ujjayi breathing steps

Sit on the mat in Sukhasana, easy half lotus position, full lotus, Vajrasana or any other position that allows you to keep your back straight and comfortable.
Start inhaling using your mouth.
Always exhale with your mouth open trying to make that whispering sound (or what you do when you have to clean your glasses).
On the next inhalation, start with your mouth open. When you are halfway through, quickly close your mouth and try to keep inhaling through your nose. You should now be able to breathe through your nose making the same sound you previously made when your mouth was open.
On the next exhalation, always start with your mouth open. As you did previously, when you are halfway through, quickly close your mouth and try to continue breathing through your nose, always making the same sound.
Now you can continue to breathe through your nose only. But always try to make the same sound you did when your mouth was open.

Now you will surely be able to hear how the air passes through your throat and makes that typical sound you heard in class. There are also those who say that it is very similar to the sound of the sea.

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