Ujjayi Pranayama – Yoga Breath, Psychic Breath

Ujjayyi Pscyhic Breathing Course 700

Ujjayi Pranayama breathing offers techniques that can change your life, and enables you to:

  1. Relax instantly, anytime and anywhere
  2. Stop thinking and silence your mind
  3. Calm your emotions
  4. Ground and center yourself
  5. Prevent overwhelm
  6. Become more present, aware and mindful
  7. Enter into deep states of meditation
  8. Set the foundation for psychological growth, strength and illumination
  9. Tune into your vital life force (your prana) for self-healing

Ujjayi pranayama is the doorway into many wonderful yoga tantra meditation practices that can radically improve your life.

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About Ujjayi Pranayama – Yoga Breath, Psychic Breath

  1. What does ujjayi mean in yoga?
  2. How is ujjayi pranayama different to other yoga breathing techniques?
  3. The breath and mind are intimately connected
  4. Ujjayi can be practiced in two main ways
  5. Use your breath to manage stress
  6. How does ujjayi improve health and energy?
  7. What are the benefits of ujjayi pranayama?
  8. Ujjayi breathing is deeply calming, grounding, centering
  9. Ujjayi improves physical and mental health
  10. Ujjayi pranayama - a powerful tool to deepen meditation
  11. Ujjayi pranayama is used to activate the chakras
  12. Ujjayi pranayama is easy and extremely useful
  13. How to perform ujjayi pranayama
  14. How to apply ujjayi in your life
  15. Your go-to breathing technique
  16. Take ujjayi pranayama further:

Ujjayi pranayama is an important yogic breathing technique that is used in many forms of meditation. This yoga breath is one of the easiest yet most powerful breathing techniques within the yoga-tantra systems of self-development. Yoga tantra is an ancient system of using the breath, mantras and visualizations to liberate energy trapped in the body and mind so as to awaken consciousness.

The ability to control, lengthen and refine the breath using this technique is essential for many of the more advanced practices, such as grounding and alignment, prana activation, pranic healing, ajapa japa, chakra meditations, and kriya or kundalini yoga.

What does ujjayi mean in yoga?

Ujjayi pranayama is a wonderful yoga breathing technique that has amazing benefits for the body, mind and spirit. It is an advanced diaphragmatic breath in which you very gently contract your throat muscles (glottis) and engage your diaphragm to slow inhalation and exhalation so that you gain greater conscious control of your breath and your prana, your vital life force.

There are many names for ujjayi pranayama. Ujjayi is mainly called the yoga breath or the psychic breath. It is also called the throat breath, the balancing breath, the victorious breath, and the ocean breath.

Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word that combines the root uj, meaning high with the root jaya, victory. It is called the victorious breath because when you practise it as part of an integrated yoga practice, you will be victorious in your efforts to become healthy, peaceful and enlightened.

Ujjayi pranayama is called the yoga breath because, of the eight or nine main forms of yoga breathing techniques (pranayama), it is the one breath that is used in many other yoga and meditation practices to empower connection, which is the true meaning of the word yoga. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means connection or union. For example, ujjayi breathing is used in yoga postures to develop a more conscious connection with yourself while you are moving or holding a posture, an asana, to facilitate relaxation and control. In meditation, you use the ujjayi breath to connect to the deeper, usually unconscious parts of you.

It is called throat breathing because, during the practice, you gently contract the throat (glottis) to produce a light sonorous sound like a baby snoring.

It is called psychic breathing because it enables you to connect with the unconscious mind and remain awake, aware and alert.

It is called the balancing breath because it simultaneously calms and energizes the body-mind.

It is called the ocean breath because it sounds like the ocean coming into and going out at the shoreline.

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The 9 main forms of pranayama within the hatha yoga system:

  1. nadi shodhana - alternate nostril breath
  2. sheetali - the cooling breath
  3. sheetkari - hissing cooling breath
  4. bhramari - humming bee breath
  5. bhastrika- bellows breath
  6. kapalbhati - frontal brain cleansing breath
  7. moorchha - swooning or fainting breath
  8. surya bheda - vitality stimulating breath
  9. ujjayi - the psychic breath

Breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breath, bellows breath, and humming breath are used to heal and energize yourself, to prepare the body for meditation. They are practised with a set number of rounds for a set period of time. Ujjayi pranayama, on the other hand, can also be a meditation technique on its own and can be performed for long periods of time with great benefit, once you know-how.

Ujjayi is unique. It is the only yoga breath that is combined with other techniques, such as visualizations and mantras to add greater power and efficacy to yoga practice. The combination of yoga techniques enables you to touch the power (shakti) that resides in the depths of your being so that you can awaken higher consciousness.

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How is ujjayi pranayama different to other yoga breathing techniques?

It is important to realize that the breath and the mind are intimately connected. When your mind is relaxed, your breath is automatically long and slow. When your mind is tense or stressed, both your breath and your thoughts speed up.

In certain forms of yoga practice, the aim is to stop the breath so that the mind stops. You enter into a thoughtless state of great inner bliss and life affirmation. Once you start to breathe again your sensorial thinking mind kicks back into action.

Stopping the breath for long periods of time is difficult. You can achieve similar effects using ujjayi pranayama. As you slow your breath, your mind also slows and relaxes. The slower the breath, the deeper your awareness can penetrate into the psyche, into the unconscious parts of you. it is here, in the depths of your own being, that true purpose and meaning are found. Ujjayi pranayama empowers this inner search for meaning.

In a more practical sense, placing your attention on the breath and then slowing and calming the breath takes your attention away from thinking. This reduces worry, anxiety and rumination and enables you to relax deeply.

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Ujjayi can be practised in two main ways

Ujjayi can be practised in two main ways, as a strong vigorous practice, and as a slow, relaxed practice.

  1. You can make the breath loud and strong in order to warm and energize the physical body, to increase your metabolism. This is especially useful in activities such as martial arts, where vigorous ujjayi breath is used to channel life force, prana, to various parts of the body, to increase power and skill.
  2. It can be made very soft and slow so that you reduce your metabolism and cool the body. As you do this you increase parasympathetic nervous system activity, relax deeply and restore energy. You are not burning the energy as you would in a more vigorous practice.

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Use ujjayi pranayama to manage stress

Long, slow, conscious controlled breathing is a wonderful way of managing stress when it is occurring and also for recovering from a stressful situation once it is over.

When you are stressed you breathe faster. There is an evolutionary advantage to having an alert mind and rapid breathing to provide more oxygen and energy to power the mind when you are stressed. Ujjayi enables you to breathe more efficiently and remain conscious and grounded during a stressful event.

There is also an evolutionary advantage to having your breath slow down so that you can recuperate from a stressful event once it is over. In today's busy world, it is difficult to find the time to relax, rest deeply and slow down so that we recover our energy and strength. Ujjayi enables you to achieve this in a relatively short period of time.

Research has shown that slow yogic breathing increases the parasympathetic relaxation dominant part of the nervous system.

Sources - Boligarla Anasuya,et al.Effect of slow breathing on autonomic tone & baroreflex sensitivity in yoga practitioners. Indian J Med Res. 2020 Dec; 152(6): 638–647. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_559_19

G.V.Lathadevi , et al. Modulation of Cardiovascular Response After Ujjayi Pranayama and Shavasana Training in Normal Human Volunteers. Journal of Clinical and diagnostic research. 2012 May, 6 (4): 571 – 573.

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How does ujjayi improve health and energy?

Ujjayi improves your breathing, health and energy in several different ways.

Most of the time you breathe in a shallow range. The range of normal inhalation and exhalation is called the tidal volume. You can see this on the diagram.

You have the capacity to take in a lot more oxygen when you want or need to. This is called the Inspiratory Reserve Volume. You also have the ability to expel more air if you want or need it and when you want or need to. This is called the Expiratory Reserve Volume.

Ujjayi uses both the Inspiratory and Expiratory Reserve Volumes to circulate oxygen and increase the efficiency of energy liberated as a result of respiration.

Respiration occurs in the lungs and also in the cell, which is called cellular respiration. Oxygen is required to burn fuel in the cells so that they work efficiently. Because the breath moves so slowly, it supports oxygen entering every cell of the body and the removal of wastes from the cells, which improves energy metabolism.

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What are the benefits of ujjayi pranayama?

Ujjayi pranayama is now medically proven to treat depression and anxiety. As you practice the ujjayi breath, you learn to use your breath to improve your life. You aim to become more aware of the breath when you inhale and exhale, to use the power inherent in the breath to improve your life.

In daily life, you can use ujjayi pranayama to:

  • quickly relax
  • release tension
  • ground yourself
  • increase physical energy
  • regulate heating and cooling of the body
  • calm an over-anxious mind
  • enhance concentration
  • deepen your experience of any meditation technique you choose to practice.

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Ujjayi breathing is deeply calming, grounding, centering

Ujjayi pranayama is one of the most important forms of meditation in yoga psychotherapy. It is used to support patients in calming and grounding themselves so that they are not overwhelmed by anxious thoughts or disturbing emotions.

For example, people suffering from anxiety and panic will often be triggered into feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Once they have learned the ujjayi breath, anytime they are triggered they can use the ujjayi breath to generate a positive feeling. This gives them a sense of control and brings them back into their body and the present moment. It facilitates mindfulness.

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Ujjayi improves physical and mental health

Ujjayi improves the quality of life in cancer patients

A research study by Druva and associates showed that yoga breathing was a feasible intervention among patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. They demonstrated that ujjayi may improve sleep disturbance, anxiety, and mental quality of life. A dose-response relationship was found between pranayama use and improvements in chemotherapy-associated symptoms and quality of life.

Source - Dhruva, A. et al. Yoga Breathing for Cancer Chemotherapy–Associated Symptoms and Quality of Life: Results of a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 18, Number 5, 2012, pp. 473–479

Yoga breathing and depression

A 12-week intervention of yoga with coherent breathing showed that depressive symptoms declined significantly in patients with major depression.

Source - Streeter, C. et al. Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2017 Mar 1; 23(3): 201–207. 

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Ujjayi pranayama - a powerful tool to deepen meditation

One of the most challenging tasks for the meditator is to remain awake and alert as you dive into the unconscious parts of your being. Your natural habit is to sleep when you introvert, which is the opposite of what you need to do to successfully experience states of meditation. The prime purpose of meditation is self-awareness. Relaxation, physical and mental health are by-products of this process.

Most people fall asleep when they close their eyes and attempt to go deep within themselves. In fact, it has been shown that many people who think they are mediating are actually sleeping. The ujjayi breath enables you to remain conscious as you dive into your subtle body. So, ujjayi breathing is a valuable tool that enables more profound meditation and greater self-discovery.

“Because self-awareness is the key to yoga, ujjayi pranayama is a vital tool for aspirants on the path.”

In meditation, you can use the ujjayi breath to:

  1. stay awake, alert, and focused
  2. internalize your awareness for self-exploration
  3. open the psychic channels
  4. deepen your experience of the technique.

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Ujjayi pranayama is used to activate the chakras

Ujjayi pranayama has both positive benefits for your physical health and, more importantly from the point of view of the chakras, enables you to take your awareness deep within the subtle dimensions of your being, deep into your psyche so that you can experience the subtler layers of your being and feel your chakras resonating in your spinal cord.

Once you connect to your chakras, ujjayi pranayama supports gentle systematic purification of the chakras. It increases sattwa, luminous energy that purifies the chakras and releases the vast power stored in each chakra. Prana energy, once liberated, can be used to enable greater self-awareness, the ultimate goal of yoga.

Because ujjayi pranayama is a form of diaphragmatic breathing that connects the belly and the throat, it has an especially positive effect on both manipura, the chakra that controls digestion and vitality, and vishuddhi chakra, which controls the thyroid gland and your metabolism. Please note that all meditation practices activate ajna chakra, the third eye.

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Ujjayi pranayama is easy and extremely useful

Once you get the hang of it, ujjayi pranayama seems to be very easy, natural and effortless. It is an incredibly valuable tool that you can use to better manage stress and develop a healthy body and mind. Use it any time you feel stressed, ungrounded or anxious, for example.

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How to perform ujjayi pranayama

Of course, it is best to learn ujjayi with a teacher who can give you feedback and correct your mistakes. however, if you don't have a teacher the following instructions will support you to get started. Also, be sure to check out the FREE UJJAYI BREATH COURSE on Big Shakti.

Practice ujjayi pranayama by gently tensing the throat in order to make a very soft sound, like the wind in a pipe, or a baby snoring. 

The aim is to make your breath as long, slow, smooth, relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Here are the most important points to remember as you learn the ujjayi breath:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting yoga pose, a yoga asana. You can also practice this in a lying yoga pose, for example in the corpse pose, Shavasana.
  2. Initially, make your body still and just focus on the movement of the breath. Once you have mastered the technique you will be able to perform the ujjayi breath anytime and anywhere as a way of remaining calm and centered under all circumstances.
  3. While practicing the ujjayi breath, the passage of air is through your nose. Make sure that your mouth is closed and that your jaw is relaxed during both inhalation and exhalation.
  4. Start by simply observing the normal natural breath. There will be no sound produced by this kind of breathing.
  5. While you are doing this, focus your attention on your throat pit (the jugular notch) each time you inhale and exhale.
  6. Gradually make your breath as long, smooth and comfortable. Breathe as slowly and smoothly as you comfortably can. Though some people say that inhalations and exhalations should be equal, this is not essential. Far better to make the breath long, slow and comfortable than to try to make the length of the breath in and out equal.
  7. As you inhale, feel as though you are sucking the breath back through the throat pit towards the back of your throat. During inhalation, you will feel a gentle contraction at the throat pit. Your breath will make a gentle sound like a baby snoring, or like the air in a pipe. The sound can be likened to the ocean receding from the shoreline, which is why it is called the ocean breath.
  8. As you exhale, feel as if you are pushing the breath from the back of your throat out of your throat pit. Of course, the air is moving in your nose, but the feeling is in your throat. You make the same gentle sound like the ocean coming into the shoreline.

Once you can perform ujjayi pranayama, there should be no strain of any kind. You will find that you are able to perform ujjayi pranayama for 30 minutes without effort.

Initially develop your ability to gently contract your throat while inhaling and exhaling. This will become second nature to you and you won't need to focus on the throat. YOu can place your attention onto and develop fine control of your diaphragm.

Initially practice ujjayi pranayama for a few minutes and then sit quietly for a moment. Then repeat this a few times, relaxing fully between each round. Extend the duration of ujjayi pranayama gradually as feels comfortable.

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How to apply ujjayi in your life

Practice ujjayi pranayama in daily life if you wish to induce a relaxed, grounded, and aware state. Practice it for two or three breaths or for a few minutes.

Practice ujjayi pranayama before or during meditation to calm and vitalize yourself, quieten your thinking, and dive deep into the subconscious mind.

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Your go-to breathing technique

With regular practice, ujjayi pranayama feels wholly effortless and natural; it can become your go-to technique to de-stress throughout the day and combat sleepiness in meditation.

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Take ujjayi pranayama further

Ujjayi is the foundation breath for Ajapa Japa meditation, a complete self-development program in yoga-tantra.

For complete training in ujjayi breathing go to the free ujjayi pranayama course on big Shakti.

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