Mindfulness: Pranayama, Ujjayi Breath

Ujjayi pranayama, Sanskrit for victorious breath, is one of the most common breath practices in yoga. It is commonly used throughout ashtanga, vinyasa, or other flow-based yoga practices to connect movement to breathe.

Ujjayi breathing is a calming and grounding breath. It utilizes constriction in the back of the throat to naturally slow the breath which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. On the mat, this breath practice can help you to feel more grounded and present in your body. By utilizing ujjayi breathing throughout a yoga practice you maintain your attention on your breath and transform your practice into a moving meditation. This can help you to maintain calm and stability even when working on challenging poses. Off the mat, ujjayi breathing can help to relieve agitation and reduce anxiety. If you find yourself feeling anxious, try pausing, and using ujjayi breathing for 2-minutes.

How to perform Ujjayi Breathing

Begin in a comfortable seated position with a long spine. Ground down through your sit bones and elevate through the crown of your head. Take a few moments to settle into your seat and bring your attention to your natural breath before beginning this practice.

When you are ready, bring your hand in front of your mouth. Take a long deep inhale through your nose filling all the way up. Exhale through an open mouth, breathing warm air onto your palm as if trying to fog up a mirror. You will be exhaling the sound “haaaa.” Try this a few more times.

Once you are comfortable with this breath, close your mouth and try to create the same sound with your exhale. Take a long deep inhale through your nose. Keeping the lips sealed, exhale through your nose gently constricting the back of your throat to create the same sensation of fogging up a mirror.

As you become comfortable with the exhale, begin to inhale with the same gentle constriction in the back of your throat.

As you continue ujjayi breath, you may notice your breath naturally begins to lengthen. The gentle constriction in your throat will encourage the breath to lengthen and slow.

Once you have mastered ujjayi breathing in a seated position you can incorporate into the rest of your yoga practice or use it during other exercise practices.