Whether you have just started out on your yoga journey or are an advanced practitioner, the Ujjayi breath is a powerful technique that you can use to transform your practice. Ujjayi is unique in that unlike some other forms of pranayama, or breathing exercises, it can be used during your moving asana practice as well as whilst seated – adding a whole new dimension to your yoga.
Breath of Victory
Ujjayi breath means “breath of victory” as it brings a sense of upliftment, power, and confidence to the practitioner as well as soothing and focusing the mind through its ocean sounding movement – giving this pranayama its other name: the ocean breath.
Integrating Ujjayi pranayama into your practice will deepen your experience both on and off the mat. Here we share the top five benefits of Ujjayi:
1. Physical Health
The technique builds internal heat which helps release tight areas of the body thus making the body less prone to injury while stretching. At the same time, by expanding the lungs further than usual, circulation increases and toxins are released from the inner organs. Further benefits include a strengthened immune system, improved sleep, assistance in controlling high blood pressure and thyroid problems, and rejuvenates the nervous system.
2. Flow of Energy
The Ujjayi breath allows more prana, our vital life-force, to enter the mind-body system, cleansing the channels (nadis), through which it passes, of stagnant energy which helps the body overcome fatigue, stress and negativity. This pranayama further encourages the movement of energy from the root energy center all the way up to the crown.
3. Relieving Stress
When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or nervous, the slow, concentrated, rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath has been shown to be very effective in calming the nervous system almost immediately. Studies have also shown the breath balances the cardiorespiratory system. Restoring balance to these two systems helps release stress, irritation and frustration and calms the mind and body.
The steadiness, sound, and depth of the Ujjayi breath help align the mind, body, and spirit with the present moment. When this happens, mental clarity and focus increase. The flow between asanas is effortless. Stability increases, and it is possible to hold postures for a longer period of time. Maintaining the Ujjayi breath throughout your practice allows you to remain centered, grounded and embodied – keeping thoughts at bay.
5. Meditation & Relaxation
The Ujjayi breath promotes calmness in the body and mind. The constriction of the throat causes vibrations in the larynx, stimulating sensory receptors that signal the vagus nerve to relax the mind and body. This contraction also exerts a gentle pressure on the carotid sinuses in the neck, leading to reduced tension. The slow, steady rhythm of the breath also makes it easier to let go during restorative postures and further supports sense withdrawal, helping ease the way into a meditative state.
Ujjayi is a profound pranayama with far-reaching benefits. Introduce Ujjayi into your asana practice and begin experiencing the power of this breath.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!