Ujjayi Breath

Trying to teach a class ujjayi (pronounced oooo-jai) breath often results in 80 % of the students looking at you like you are extra mad!! So this is a simple explanation
that may help you to learn to do it and understand why it is a useful
tool.

How: Inhale through your nose and open your mouth and exhale saying aahhh. Then
repeat this and whisper aaahhh and as you do so close your mouth so the air
comes out of your nose sounding a bit like the sea. Try to inhale keeping your
mouth closed making the same sound. At first it does feel very weird. One way
to learn how is to try to create the sound on either the out breath or the in
breath which is less tiring than trying to do it both ways at once. At first it
is tiring and when it gets too much (if you start to shake you have done way too
much!!) it is good to revert to a normal breath and try again later.

Why: Using ujjayi forces you to slow down the breath immediately making you
calmer. It makes the body work harder making your body warmer also good for
getting deeper into your yoga practice. Ujjayi is useful when you are moving
with the breath as you can hear it, so it is easier to concentrate on your
breath, making it easier to find a meditative state.

When: You can use ujjayi in power yoga, normal yoga practice,
pranayama(breathing work) or everyday life. Many people who have mastered it
slip into it automatically in stressful situations or, for example, if
they cannot sleep. Ujjayi breath is also great for comforting babies as the sound of the breath and the calmness it creates in you really calms a crying child and takes the stress out of the situation.

If you can’t sleep at night breath out for twice as long as you breath in (it can be more
effective if you use ujjayi breath). So 2 counts in and a thin stream of breath
for four counts out. Don’t strain or carry on too long and you can increase to
3 counts in and 6 out (or more). Remember do not carry on until the breath is
strained as this will not work – make it a relaxed easy breath. If you are
still not asleep after one round, take a break – relax and breathe normally –
then do it again. It is more likely you will fall asleep in the break than when
you are doing the breath.

Nadi sodhana (sometimes called anuloma viloma or alternative breathing) is one of the most useful pranayamas. You breathe through alternate nostrils to calm the mind and balance the energy in the body so you are neither too hyperactive nor too lazy. If you use ujjayi breath this can be incorporated into nadi sodhana.

To start:

  • Sit comfortably on the floor, cushion or chair with a straight spine.
  • Left hand rests comfortably on your lap or your left knee.
  • First and second finger of the right hand fold into your palm (see pic below).
  •  Breath deeply in and out, then cover right nostril with right thumb.
  •  Inhale through left nostril then cover left nostril with third finger.
  •  Release right thumb, exhale from right nostril then inhale.
  • Cover right nostril with right thumb again.
  • Uncover left nostril and exhale.

This is one round. Try not to slump and keep the right elbow either down to your chest orout to the side. You can either count the rounds or set a timer. Five minutes is quite a good amount of time but at first this may be too much. Stop if youstart to strain and always finish exhaling from the left. Take a few nice  afterwards and from here you could move to meditation or svavasana(relaxation). Nadi sodhana can be done first thing to prepare your mind for a busy day, before bed for a good night’s sleep or anywhere in between.

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