Ujjāyī means the victorious one. In yoga practice ujjāyī prāṇāyāma is used in conjunction with asana practice. The distinctive sound of this prāṇāyāma has also given it the name "ocean breath". In many flow style yoga classes it is customary to practice ujjāyī prāṇāyāma throughout the practice, and although each individual is creating just a very soft hiss when it is properly practiced, in a full room it is quite audible.
To do ujjāyī prāṇāyāma correctly, the same process is used as in a full yogic breath. That is, you breathe down into the belly first, then into the middle and then into the top lobes of the lungs. Breathing out is the reverse, empty top first, then middle and then the belly. Read the post on the full yogic breath.
It is important to keep breathing through the nose with the lips gently closed. Even though a sound is created, this is not mouth created.
This is where the sound is created. There is a slight closure of the glottis. This restricts the flow of breath through the larnyx and creates a gentle hiss. The restriction also slows the flow of breath.
To get the hang of this you might like to try some of these suggestions, given by my teachers over the years, to help you discover the technique:
This is one of the clues to the effectiveness of ujjāyī prāṇāyāma. It really does flow with the gentleness of a calm ocean swell. Slow it down as much as you can and smooth it out. Work on smooth trasnitions between inhales and exhales as well.
You will no doubt encounter prāṇāyāma that change the ratio between the length of the inhale and exhale. In ujjāyī prāṇāyāma don't worry about that, just keep the length of the inhale and the exhale the same.
Ujjāyī prāṇāyāma is a warming breath, nice when we are coming into winter but also makes it contraindicated in a hot yoga class or if you have a fever or hot flushes or even in very hot weather.
It brings you into a present centredness and really helps you to bring breath and movement into synchronicity. This yogic technique deepens your capacity to drop out of the thinking mind and to open just to what is really here before you have a thought about it.
You may also find that your endurance increases, and because the gentle restricted flow in the throat stimulates the carotid sinuses, which have a role in regulating blood pressure you may also discover that it calms you down and reduces discursive thinking.
(Author: Tina Shettigara)