Ujjayi Breath - What's up with it?

Many people who take yoga classes hear the instructor refer to "Ujjayi breathing," and they must wonder what the big deal is with this breath. The Sanskrit word "ujjayi" means "expand into victory," and it is often referred to in English as "victorious breathing." Beryl Bender Birch says in her new book, Boomer Yoga, "This is hands-down an incredible and powerfully therapeutic technique that everyone in the world should learn."

Inhaling and exhaling through your nose is standard for yoga practice. However, as you incorporate "Ujjayi" breath, one restricts the back of the throat just above the vocal cords on the inhale and exhale. This makes an audible sound for both the practitioner and the people practicing yoga close to him or her. I often refer to it as making a "so" sound on the inhalation and a "hum" sound on the exhalation.

Breathing this way sounds somewhat like what I consider to be a Darth-Vader kind of breath. It creates a rhythm in your breath which encourages you to concentrate on your inhale and exhale. Heat is created within your body along with this "dharana" or type of concentration. I believe that it helps to calm my mind because I am concentrating so much on my breath. By keeping it in rhythm, I do not have time to think about all the other things that my mind wants to jump back and forth with such as, to - do lists, yesterday's happenings, or tomorrow's agenda.

"Ujjayi" breath can be practiced off the yoga mat as well as while you do postures in class or at home. One can do it while you are driving to work, sitting quietly in meditation, cleaning up the kitchen, or mowing the yard. However, it is a technique that should always be practiced while doing Sun Salutations. The inhale and exhale of each movement that we use in starting our yoga class will help you withdraw your senses, concentrate on a gazing point, and build the heat necessary to create a sweat in the body. The breath should be continued throughout your workout through the standing postures, seated postures, and closing sequence. When you end your practice with Savasana or Final Relaxation pose, return to a normal quiet breath inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

What's up with "Ujjayi" breath? Prana or life energy is what comes up and is sealed with the lips shut. You will feel revitalized and renewed after your yoga practice. This breath takes concentration, but it is worth it! Don't give up if you do not achieve it the first or second time; it takes some perseverance, but you can do it!


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