Ujjayi – Breath of Victory

New Yoga students often ask me for instructions on the “right” way to breathe. There is no single answer to that question since the optimal breathing pattern at any given moment depends on the type of practice. During an, for example, Ashtanga, Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow class you  focus on a strong, active Ujjayji breath to create internal heat and during restorative classes a deep and calm breathing pattern is used to create a calm and serene state of being.

Optimal breathing patterns are the key to any yoga class, and not only that, but any life situation. Often we “forget” that we are actually breathing and have to remind us to “take a deep breath” and send some life into every cell of our body- or at least we get told to in Yoga classes. And that’s what is great about a Yoga class, right? To practice AWARENESS……

Sigh… now everyone.. take a deep breath here….

So, in this PART 1 of 2 “breathing posts” I want to talk about the Ujjayi breath and what it is all about. To start off, I would like to introduce you to THE Yoga anatomy guru Leslie Kaminoff. In the video below he describes WHY Ujjayi breathing is so useful and when we should use it.

  • The Ujjayi breath is the breath of victory. In this type of pranayama, the lungs are fully expanded and the chest is puffed out.
  • The sound of Ujjayi pranayama serves two purposes: One, it stimulates the nadis, or energy channels, in the sinuses and at the back of the throat, which, in turn, promotes mental clarity and focus. And two, it provides a sound to focus on, so that the mind can become more still.

HOW?

Create a “voice” of its own

The inhalation should rub against the back of the nasal cavity and throat. During the exhalation, imagine you are saying “ha” without the “a” and feel the breath rubbing against the frontal sinuses as it leaves the body. Both inhalation and exhalation must be done with the mouth closed, through the nostrils only. Finally, the friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal heat.

I often teach students to create an ocean-like sound, as you would be listening to the waves. Create a strong and conscious breathing pattern through the back of your throat and try to keep inbreath and outbreath the same length.

So that’s it: It is THAT easy :) I highly recommend everyone of you to try breathing in Uyyaji during Yoga and even throughout the day, whenever you need a break and want to destress and focus on the NOW. While it is not only relaxing for your mind, Ujjayi breathing massages your internal organs and encourages the detoxification process in the body.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

―    Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Do you often breath consciously? Do you breath in Ujjayi during Yoga classes? Do you agree that we often “forget that we are actually breathing”?

12 thoughts on “Ujjayi – Breath of Victory

  1. i was totally wondering about this…i like how you phrased it as making an ocean sound. i had someone tell me to breathe out like a cat coughing up a hairball?! ummm.. what?! haha. needless to say i ended up laughing more than breathing ;P

    • haha a cat coughing up a hairball? now THATS what I call a creative yoga teacher.. you made me laugh hard with this one!

    • i keep saying ocean sound because to me there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of the ocean… i could listen to it all day and it truly calms me down! i used to live right AT the ocean in france for a couple of months and I love thinking back of how much I enjoyed it!

  2. I soooo often think: wow, now I forgot to breath! When its stressful and a bad time like at the moment… Thanks for reminding me how important breathing is! … I’ll contact you spontaneously when I have time for a meeting (run?) ok, I’m really sorry, I know, so many excuses, but I really am not in a happy place at the moment and try to get back to one ;-) have a great national holiday!!

    • Ulli! I really hope u feel better soon, sending u love and energy for that time to pass by quickly and remember, dont forget to breath!

  3. I do try and use ujjayi during yoga….and when I actually do it consistently I can really feel a difference! I love the feeling—it seems to be what takes me from “doing yoga” to doing a moving meditation. Ahhhhh :-)

  4. Great post Alexia! Since taking up meditation, I’m far more aware of my breathing than I’ve ever been before. I’m also enjoying passing on what I’ve learnt to my Wednesday Workshop children. Each week we start with a simple breathing meditation and it’s so lovely to watch and hear them gently breathing in and out. They’re so calm afterwards. Often they just want to lay down on the floor and chill out lol!
    Thich Nhat Hanh’s books are wondeful and I love it when I spot Tweets that quote him. One the other day simply said ‘And breathe’. I let out a long exhale and it felt so good :)

    • oh i think its so important to teach kids to breath right.. we actually have lots of kids yoga classes in vienna and they really enjoy it.. they do sun salutations, jumping around and then SUPER relax and learn how to breath! quite awesome!

  5. Love your post and I always enjoyed it when teacher called it the oceanic breath- hearing the teacher saying it has a calming effect on me already – What I find quite helpful too is when people say that it’s a breathy sound like the one made when you fog a mirror or glass with your breath.

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