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Ujjayi Pranayama- Steps, Benefits and Contraindications of Ujjayi Breath | Ocean Breath Yoga

Ujjayi pranayama is also known as the Victorious breath as ‘Ujjayi’ means ‘victory’. It is also known as the Ocean breath as the sound produced during inhalation and exhalation resembles the sound of oceanic waves. Ujjayi breath is performed by inhaling of air with the nostrils and exhalation can be done through the nose and/or mouth. In this pranayama, the throat is used to a good extent for inhaling the air in a particular way.

Steps to practice Ujjayi pranayama

The Ujjayi breathing technique can be practiced by the following steps…

1/7. Unlike the Anulom Vilom, Surya Bhedana or Chandra Bhedana pranayams, Ujjayi Pranayam is done by keeping both the nostrils open. There is no blocking of any nostril during the inhalation or exhalation process.

2/7. The spine has to be comfortably straight. The shoulders have to remain straight as well. The hand can be in the Gyan mudra with the tip of the index finger touching the tip of the thumb while resting on the knees. 

3/7. You should ideally be sitting cross-legged, either in Padamasana or Sukhasana, whatever way is comfortable. If not able to sit down in these poses, you can also sit on the chair with a straight back-rest.

After attaining the right posture, close your eyes and draw the attention inwards towards the breath. You should try to remain breath focused during the exercise for achieving the best results.

4/7. The throat plays an important part in this breathing exercise. While inhaling the throat has to be constricted a little. This constriction can be done in the same way as if you are about the whisper to someone in low voice. It might take you some effort and a few days of practice to put this right. Please be mindful of the fact that the constriction is to be done little and not too much.

While inhaling, you should be able to feel the sensation of friction when air moves in the windpipe. Inhalation should be able to fill in the lungs completely and it has to be slow and without too much of effort.

5/7. The next step is of retention of the breath. Those who are beginners to this exercise and are not able to hold the breath, it is okay to move to the next step of Exhalation of breath. Those who can hold the breath should be able to do so with a chin-lock, also called the Jalandhara bandh and the bandha can be retained for as long as you are comfortable.

If you are comfortable with application of bandha, then you can also apply the Moola Bandha after applying the Jalandhara bandha.

6/7. The final step is of exhalation of the breath. Now, in this step, there are different ways in which the exhalation can be done. These are propounded by different yoga experts. We provide all of these three methods below and you can choose the one with which you are most comfortable.

a. You can simply let go of the air completely from the lungs by exhaling from both the nostrils.

b. Another option is to exhale from the mouth, not from the nose. While exhaling from mouth, you gradually reduce the lip opening to close lips altogether. This way a hissing sound is made while exhaling.

c. Alternatively, you can exhale through the left nostril by keeping the right nostril closed using thumb.

The most common practice of exhalation is by keeping the mouth open (point no. ii).

7/7. You can repeat the cycle of inhalation-retention-exhalation a few times. It takes a few days of practice for the beginners to come to the right way of doing it. So, be patient and keep on practicing in correct manner.

Time Duration of Practice

It is good to perform at least 5-6 cycles of this pranayama. With more practice this can be increased to a higher number but care shall be taken not to do this too much. 

This pranayama should be done empty stomach either in the morning or in the evening. There should be a gap of about 3-4 hours after taking the meals. If you are also doing the yoga asana, then it should be done after doing the yoga asana but before doing the meditation. Meditation is generally the last practice in the daily routine. 

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama

There are many advantages of this breathing exercise for the body. Some of the major ones are given here…

1/10. Good for thyroid regulation- For people having under or over performing thyroid, called as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism respectively, this pranayama is very helpful in stimulating and balancing the hormone secretion. This is one of the best breathing exercise recommended for the thyroid problem. Some experts opine that regular practice of this pranayama also has the effect of curing the thyroid ailments.

2/10. Helpful in cases of Edeme or Dropsy- In these ailments, there is a tendency for the body to retain the fluids. By doing Ujjayi pranayama regularly, this tendency to retain the fluids by the body is rectified.

3/10. It is believed to be helpful in providing relief from headache, cold and cough and sinuses.

4/10. It reduces the formation of phlegm which, in turn, is helpful in proper functioning of digestive, respiratory and nervous systems of the body.

5/10. This pranayama also improves the concentration levels of the mind and builds endurance levels of physique.

6/10. It stimulates the nadis or the nerves of the body which brings good mental clarity to the person.

7/10. The friction noticed in the throat during the inhalation process is helpful in generating the body heat which is just like a massage of the internal organs. 

8/10. This is good for awakening of Kundalini energy and chakras. It helps in attaining the meditative state.

9/10. It brings peace to mind and calms it down. This makes it helpful in treating insomnia.

10/10. The Ujjayi pranayama is considered good for physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is best for throat exercise, particularly for stimulating the thyroid gland and helping it function properly. It is also good for meditation and nervous system.

Precautions and Contraindications

Situations in which this pranayama should not be practiced or when certain modifications can be done…

1/2. People with ailment of heart and/or having high blood pressure should avoid the breath retention step. If they are uncomfortable doing it, this pranayama should be avoided by them.

2/2. You have to do little constriction of throat so that the air flow through channel is streamlined and some friction is generated. You should not put too much strain or tighten the throat, which would be wrong way of doing it. Constriction has to be of glottis which is a part of the larynx.

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