by Hailey Tzounos
Have you ever wondered why your Yoga teacher asks you to "constrict the base of your throat" as you breathe during practice, or to only breathe through the nose? While it may take some getting used to, once you've found your rhythm with this breathing technique you will see why it's encouraged so often.
What is Ujjayi?
Pronounced oo-jai, and translated as 'Breath of Victory', it is the thread that connects every piece of your practice together. Placing more focus on the breath can help to quieten the mind and ultimately experience Yoga as a moving meditation.
Why this type of breathing?
Amongst many other benefits this breathing technique will help you flow from one posture to the next as well as giving us the feedback on when to take rest (hello Childs Pose!). Engaging Ujjayi breath physically massages the 'vegus' nerve which helps to calm the central nervous system and take us into the parasympathetic state of 'rest and digest'; it also helps to activate our deep core, making us stronger and more stable in our physical practice of asana (postures). With the slow and rhythmic Ujjai breathing you are able to stay focused, calm + still even in those postures that are challenging + heat building.
How do we perform Ujjayi?
The best way to learn this Pranayama is to exhale a few times out of the mouth making a 'HAAA' sound. Do that a couple of times getting used to the sound as well as the gentle restriction at the base of the throat. Then take a long inhale through the nose, and when you are ready to let the breath out, do so with the mouth closed. See if you can keep the same gentle restriction in the throat creating the 'HAAA' sound even though the mouth is closed. Keep the constriction and see if you can then make that gentle sound also as you inhale through the nose. There is your Ujjai breath!
Happy practicing Yogis xx