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Yoga Basics: Ujjayi Breath

Yoga Basics: Ujjayi Breath

If you’ve been to a yoga class lately, you’ve likely heard the term “Ujjayi breath”. Sometimes called “Ocean breath” due to the sound of the breath making its way through the throat as the passage is narrowed. Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath that first fills the lower belly, then rises to the lower rib cage and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. It’s a breathing technique that is used typically in asana practice.

When it's done properly, breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutra, it suggests that the breath should be long and smooth.

Here’s how it works:

Gently constrict the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Then when you gently pull the breath in on inhalation and push out on exhalation against this resistance it creates a modulated and soothing sound – similar to ocean waves rolling in and out.

Benefits of practicing Ujjayi breath:

Extending the inhalation results in more oxygen coming into the body which results in increased vitality

Toxins are expelled

Heat is developed when contracting the glottis which makes the body more flexible

Breath is indicator when practicing yoga, if our breath is strained or irregular, it’s indicator that we need to change something

Soothing effect on the nervous system and calms the mind

Slows down heart rate and lowers blood pressure

Stills the mind

However, when practicing Ujjayi breath it’s easy to exert too much effort and concentrate too heavily on the breathing itself while in fact, Ujjayi breath is all about relaxation. Too much effort into the Ujjayi breath can create a grating sound, whereas this breathing technique should be smooth and unstrained.

It is advised to practice Ujjayi breath while seated or in non-strenuous yoga positions so that you can focus on creating a soothing and pleasing sound. Once your Ujjayi is mastered in one of these more leisurely positions, try maintaining the same quality of breathing throughout your yoga practice.

As with any yoga position or methodology, practice is the key to improvement. Come perfect your own Ujjayi breath.