Pranayama being an essential component of yoga is the practice of controlling the breath to free the flow of prana or life energy.
There are multiple types of pranayama in yoga (namely Anulom Vilom, Kapalbhati, Bhastrika, Ujjayi, Bhramari etc.) and among them, Ujjayi is considered as the 4th important pranayama.
Practicing Ujjayi Pranayama provides a meditative state and greater control over breath rate.
It consists of two words – “Ujjayi” and “Pranayama” which means “Victory” and “Breath” respectively in Sanskrit. Thus the Ujjayi Pranayama means “victorious breath”.
It is also mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika a fifteenth-century yoga Sanskrit manual and in the Gheranda Samhita, one of the classic Sanskrit text of yoga in Hinduism.
In Ujjayi pranayama, the process of breathing is done with both nostrils. The inhalation and exhalation are done through the nostrils at a normal pace with a half-closed glottis. It, as a result, creates a small resistance to airflow which produces a light snoring sound during the breathing.
The sound produced sounds like the sound of the ocean. That is why it is also called “Sound Breath” or “Ocean sound breath”.
The diaphragm is responsible for controlling the length and speed of the breath. The breathed air first reaches the lower belly thus activating the first and second chakras and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.
As a result, practicing of Ujjayi pranayama provides various health benefits as well as prevent and manage diseases.
Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama
Below are the various health benefits of practicing Ujjayi pranayama:
- Helps calm the mind and warm the body.
- Boosts focusing power of the mind.
- Gives a positive attitude.
- Clears blocked arteries.
- Regulates cholesterol and thus reduces the risk of heart attacks.
- Increases cardiac-vagal baroreflex sensitivity (BRS).
- Improves oxygen saturation.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Reduces anxiety.
- Facilitates greater control over airflow.
- Reduces weight.
- Lowers inflammation of the thyroid gland.
- Cures sleep apnea, and snoring.
- Helpful in cataracts and sinus problems.
How to Do Ujjayi Pranayama?
Following are the steps of Ujjayi Pranayama:
- Sit in a meditative pose with eyes closed and back erect and rigid.
- Contract the glottis so that the passage of the throat is partially closed.
- Take a long and unbroken breath in slowly from both the nostrils.
- While breath in allows the air to make friction at the throat to create a gentle hissing sound.
- Sooth your mind with the sound.
- When the inhalation is complete, or you feel a sense of fullness, lock the chin (perform Jalandhara Bandha) to retain the air inside.
- Retain the breath as long as you are comfortable.
- Unlock the chin and exhale slowly through both nostrils making a gentle hissing sound again.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do Ujjayi Pranayama for 3 to 5 times.
Note – You should be focusing on the passage of breath through the throat during the practice.
Best Time for Practicing
The best time of performing this pranayama is
- in the early morning or evening time
- or before doing meditation
Limitations of Ujjayi Pranayama
Despite providing many health benefits, it has some limitations and are as follows:
- Ujjayi should be avoided if you are suffering from heart ailments and blood pressure problems.
- If you have a migraine problem then it is better to avoid this pranayama.
- Pregnant women should also avoid Ujjayi pranayama.
- May reduce Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), and Triiodothyronine (T3).
- Must be practiced only under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher.