Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as the victorious breath or ocean sounding breath or Hissing Breath, helps in focusing, grounding and aids in concentration.
It is called the ocean sounding breath because you make an ocean sound by contracting the glottis with the inhalation and exhalation. This Pranayama is done through the nose, but it is helpful to begin practicing breathing through the mouth.
To make the ocean sound, whisper the syllable "h," feeling the contraction in your throat. Keep this contraction engaged on the inhalation and exhalation. After a couple of breaths try to close the mouth, breathing through the nose while still making the ocean sound in your throat.
Concentrates and directs the breath, giving asana practice extra power and focus.
This pranayama is most often used in association with the practice of yoga poses, especially in the vinyasa style. Vinyasa yoga is breath-synchronized movement, and the breath used is Ujjayi breath. Learn this breath while seated in a comfortable cross-legged position. Once you feel confident, begin to use it during asana practice.
- Inhale and exhale deeply through the mouth.
- While exhaling, begin to tone the back of the throat, slightly constricting the passage of air. Imagine that you are fogging up a pair of glasses.
- Once you are comfortable with exhaling, begin to apply the same toning of the throat to inhaling. This is where the name of the breath comes from-it sounds like the ocean. It also sounds like Darth Vadar.
- When you are able to control the throat both during inhalation and exhalation, close the mouth and begin breathing through the nose. Continue applying the same toning to the throat that you did when the mouth was open. The breath will still make a loud noise coming in and out of the nose. This is Ujjayi breath.
- Now start to use this breath during your practice. If the teacher tells you inhale, make it an Ujjayi inhale. If you need a little something extra while holding a pose, remember this breath.
Another way to think about Ujjayi Breath is to visualize your throat as a garden hose, with the breath passing through like a trickle of water. If you put your thumb partially over the opening of the hose, you increase the power of the water that is coming through. This is the same thing you are doing with your throat during Ujjayi breathing. The air that comes in through your constricted throat is a powerful, directed breath that you can send into the parts of your body that need it during yoga.