Ujjayi translates to "victorious breath" and is one of the basic breathing or pranayama techniques of yoga. A technique that builds heat in the body and relaxes the mind, it suits students of all levels—beginner to advanced, and is practiced in conjunction with asana and as a seated meditation.
To Begin, Have A Seat
To begin, take a comfortable seat. You’re welcome to sit on a block, blanket, or bolster if that’s most comfortable for you. Adjust your seat so that you feel the two sitting bones on either side of the tailbone root down into the ground.
Imagine that there’s a string attached to the crown of the head that helps you to sit as tall as your can. Feel the natural curves of the neck and low back. Check that the chin is level to the ground. Shoulders relax down and back.
Gently close the eyes and relax the muscles of the face, particularly the jaw and the forehead where we often hold a lot of tension.
Part the teeth with lips together. Relax the sides and root of the tongue into the bottom of the mouth. You’re welcome to place one hand on the heart and one on the belly, or to gently relax the hands on the legs, palms face up for more energy, and palms face down for more grounding.
Now Take A Deep Breath
Take a deep breath in through the nose and let it out of the mouth with a big sigh.
On the inhale, the belly and chest fill while the ribs expand. On the exhale, the belly and chest empty completely while the ribs contract. On a count of four, take a full inhale through the nose. On a count of four, exhale fully through the mouth as if you want to fog a mirror.
Now close the mouth and inhale the sound of an ocean wave through the nose. With the mouth closed, exhale through the nose as if you want to fog a mirror.
Continue at your own pace with even inhales and exhales. You may find they grow longer over time. Feel the wave of breath moving through you in a circle—no beginning and no end. Take 10 full cycles of breath of ujjayi at your own pace.
Allow the breath to return to normal and let go of the ocean sound. Drop your chin to your chest and lengthen the back of the neck. Flutter the eyes open, softly gazing down at a single point for a few breaths. Raise the head and notice any changes in the body and mind. Victory!
How do you like ujjayi? If you already do this regularly, what other tips or suggestions do you have that helped you cultivate this breathing technique? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!