Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) is a form of pranayama (the yogic science of breath) and has been used for thousands of years to enhance one’s yoga practice. The Sanskrit word, Ujjayi is commonly translated as “victorious breath,” and is commonly referred to as the “oceanic breath”. The sound that Ujjayi provides helps us to synchronize breath with movements during yoga, making the entire yoga practice more rhythmic.
To create Ujjayi breath, one must constrict the back of the throat, similar to the constriction made when speaking in a whisper. Therefore, it is an audible breathe that is often compared to the sound of the ocean. Although there is a constriction of the throat, the Ujjayi breath flows in and out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed.
Vinyasa yoga (flow yoga) is based on breath-synchronized poses or postures. Translated from Sanskrit, vinyasa means, “to place in a special way.” Each movement is a gradual progression from one to the next. The movement is aligned and linked with the breath so that you move with each inhale and exhale. Vinyasa-style yoga classes are ones where there is a dynamic flow from posture to posture.
Here are eight reasons why you’ll want to incorporate Ujjayi breathing in your yoga practice:
1. Improves concentration in the physical practice. Becoming absorbed in Ujjayi allows one to remain in poses for longer periods of time.
2. Instills endurance that enhances a flowing practice by lending a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the class.
3. It diminishes distractions and allows you to remain self-aware and present in the practice.
4. Ujjayi breath regulates heating of the body. The friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal body heat. It is similar to a massage for the internal organs; as the core becomes warm from the inside, the body becomes prepared for the yoga practice. This heat makes stretching safer while the inner organs can be cleansed of any toxins that have accumulated.
5. A focused Ujjayi breath can release tension and tight areas of the body.
6. Additional benefits of Ujjayi pranayama include diminished pain from headaches, relief of sinus pressure, decrease in phlegm, and strengthening of the nervous and digestive systems.
7. The breath should remain as even and smooth in the poses as when we rest. Ujjayi tells us when we need to surrender and possibly take a break into a resting posture like Child’s Pose. It allows us to be honest with ourselves and to take a step back to let go of our ego.
8. Ujjayi allows us to practice full deep breaths during the challenges of a physical practice. Therefore, it teaches us to stay calm when faced with the challenges of our daily lives.
Your breath can be your true teacher, guiding you in many ways. The ancient yogis realized the intimate connection between the breath and the mind. Hopefully, you will consider this pranayama in your practice.
(information used from various sites regarding Yoga breathing)