Ujjayi Breath

Ujjayi breath
Ujjayi breath is a tranquillizing breathing practice (pranayama). This breath is relaxing, soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It assists to warm the body and is effective in relieving insomnia when practiced lying on your back (shavasana). Ujjayi breathing can also be done sitting or standing.

Ujjayi breathing is a soft, whispering breath which you’ll also hear called ocean breath, baby breath or as I like to call it baby Darth Vader breath. It’s compared to the sound of a shell against your ear.

Getting ready for Ujjayi breath
As you get ready to do this breath relax your face as much as possible. In particular relax your jaw and throat. Try not to contract the throat too much, but the contraction of the throat should be slight and applied continuously throughout the practice.

  • Sit comfortably as you would for meditation or lie down.
  • Gently close the eyes. This helps you to focus on the breath and the rhythm/touch of the breath on the throat.
  • Keep your lips gently closed and draw the awareness to breath at the nostrils. Let the breath become calm and rhythmic.
  • Move the awareness to your throat.
  • Imagine and feel the breath is being drawn into the throat. There is a slight constriction of the throat as you do this. Like breathing in and out of a thin straw. Keep you jaw and face relaxed.
     (TIP: if you are unsure of the sensation needed at the throat, place your palm in front of your mouth. Using your breath from the open mouth exhale, just like you are trying to fog up a mirror. You will notice that your breath is warm. When you inhale keep your hand in front of the mouth and breathe in making the same sound (this breath will be cooler). Do this a few times until you become aware of the sensation at the throat and the slight constriction needed.) 
  • Start to make the breath slower and deeper (inhale and exhale). The sound of a baby breathing or baby Darth Vader will be more obvious. The sound should only be audible to you.
  • You will know this practice is correct when abdomen contracts without any effort being made.
Begin with practicing this breath 10 times and gradually increase to 5 minutes.
Ujjayi breathing is calming for the mind and body, it slows down the heart rate, which assists people with high blood pressure. This breath improves circulation and strengthens the nervous system.

Studies have shown that Ujjayi and other yogic breathing can alleviate anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, and stress-related medical illnesses. Mechanisms contributing to a state of calm alertness include increased parasympathetic drive, calming of stress response systems, neuroendocrine release of hormones, and thalamic generators. This model has heuristic value, research implications, and clinical applications.

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