Ujjayi, Learn the ancient yogic art of breathing

Updated at: Oct 25, 2017
Ujjayi, Learn the ancient yogic art of breathing

Method of practicing the pranayama called Ujjayi breathing with guidelines on how to prepare for it. It has many advantages for the person practicing it and it sure deserves a try.

Written by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Aug 24, 2017

Preparing for the asana 

Ujjayi is an amalgamation of two Sanskrit terms, ut, meaning "up," and jayi, meaning "victory." Ujjayi assists a practitioner in prevailing over derangement of the crucial force known as uddana, the upward-flowing pranayama.

  • The preliminary point for ujjayi is a comfortable, stable sitting posture.
  • However, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight, if you are not comfortable in any of these postures. Your shoulders should not hunch nor should your back be rounded.
  • Once you are seated with ease, take a few breaths to institute yourself flat and still with diaphragmatic breathing.
  • The breath should be deeper than regular breaths as ujjavi necessitate inhalation beside the supplementary confrontation of a constricted glottis. Expanding the abdomen fully during inhalation and to contract it completely during exhalation is the simplest way to deepen the breaths.
  • By expanding the sides and the back by holding a slight amount of tension in the abdomen – can be used as an alternative way to deepen your breath. This dampens the development of the stomach, which is unregulated in simple diaphragmatic breathing.
  • This technique of deep breathing enlarges the entire lower rib cage gradually and consistently.
  • Consequently the total perimeter of the torso expands including the flanks, the back, and the front of the upper tummy. Certainly leading to some movement in the chest and will be hard to separate because the chest and the abdomen will be intensifying at the same time.
  • While placing the middle fingers at the bottom edge of the ribs, judiciously place your palms on your sides, pointing toward each other, in order to experience this asana.
  • The tips of your middle fingers should barely touch, at the end of an exhalation, while the ribs should be highly contracted.
  • The tips of your fingers should pull apart, up to an inch, as the rib cage enlarges, during your inhalation period.

Practicing the asana

  • Try making effort in partially closing the glottis and the aperture in the throat just behind the larynx (Adam’s apple). This can be done after you have learned to intensify your breathing.
  • The innate noise of respiration will be augmented while you partially close your glottis even as breathing deeply.
  • The sibilant sound of "sss" will be heard during inhalation and the aspirant "hhh" during exhalation.
  • Partially closed glottis produces a sound which sometimes resembles to snoring; you should avoid strong vibration of the soft palate as it takes place in loud snoring. Ujjayi at all times is done by breathing via nose.
  • Closing the glottis consciously may take due amount of practice to learn. A reflex tension in the glottis is generated, at times, while contracting the muscular cords in the neck (those connecting the jaw with collar bones). Deep breathing may help you in creating the correct sound. Accordingly, try to uphold that sound-this will be necessary as you get rid of impurities while performing ujjayi- while comforting the muscles of the neck.
  • In case you are breathing deeply, but still you are facing problem in producing the ujjayi sound, try speaking in a normal voice. Now repeat it in a whisper. Area of the throat behind the Adam’s apple will be left a bit uptight, a little, as you prepare to whisper, while paying close attention.
  • Without any break in proceedings or pull, try making the sound balanced as you pump in air, after you can fabricate this sound perfectly.  A balanced control over the respiratory muscles will further help you in achieving this result. Any roughness or shakiness in the breath will make the tension of the glottis much more audible.
  • After inhalation and exhalation, you will hear a short silence phase in the sound of ujjayi. Inhalations and exhalations should be approximately equivalent in length. This should not let to any kind of pause in your breathing pattern. Each inhalation and exhalation should flow in defined pattern, and vice versa.
  • Sit quietly after repeated practice for three to five minutes. Be considerate to the comforting effects on the nervous system and mental state.

Ujjayi is done with a full opening out of the chest, traditionally, post to which the breath is retained. Breath withholding can be injurious, leading to cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, and other, more serious, problems, if not performed under the supervision and guidance of an experienced and trained yoga teacher. Please don’t experiment with retention on your own. 

It sure deserves a try

Ujjayi can be tried while walking to or from work or while taking an evening stroll. Fine-tune the length of the breath to your pace, if you find it difficult to maintain a regular asana practice. The more you exert yourself, the more you need to breathe quickly. 

Ujjayi as a practice can be inculcated in your daily routine- while waiting in a slow-moving line at the checkout counter or when you’re stuck in traffic or during any kind of tense moments. A few breaths can render you cool and calm. The sound is so low that even a person next to you may not notice it. Ujjayi proposes an opportunity to intensify your awareness and improves your ability to manage your mind, soul and energy levels. It sure deserves a try!

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