Victorious breath (Ujjayi breath)

Ujjayi in Sanskrit means "victorious”,  and it comes from two words: ud  that meaning "bondage" and ji which is translated as "conquering", therefore ujjayi is the breath which gives freedom from the bondage of the mind and leads to the victory over its restless nature.

How to perform: Ujjayi involves the gentle contraction of the glottis (the opening at the upper end of the windpipe, between the vocal cords) so that when the breath passes, a gentle hissing sound is produced in the throat (not in the nose). To find the place of this contraction, you can start by opening your mouth and inhaling softly, noticing where the breath touches your throat. It will be somewhere at the back of the throat, and this is the spot you need to constrict slightly to practice ujjayi. Once you feel this area, close your mouth and imagine there is a valve which you close slightly to regulate the pressure of the air passing through. The measure for this regulation is your sound, which ultimately should not require any effort nor create any tension. Sometimes it helps to imagine a hole in your throat that you are breathing through or imagine you are saying "ha" without the "a". Both inhalation and exhalation must be done with the mouth closed, through the nostrils only.
Relax the face as much as possible, and do not contract the throat strongly. The sound you make does not need to be loud. It should be just audible enough for you and the people close by to hear. The sound can be compared to a cat purring, or the sound of the ocean you can hear in a shell or that of soft snoring, like the breathing of a sleeping baby. As you practice, listen to the sound of your breath, to understand its quality. Feel how your body and mind respond. Try to smooth out any rough edges so the breath is as smooth as liquid as if you were slowly drinking the air.
As you create a constriction at the base of your throat to make the sound of your breath audible, there will be a simultaneous gentle contraction of your abdomen. Just be aware of this slight contraction. This will happen without any effort being made.
Ujjayi is easier to perform as you exhale so it’s advisable to learn the technique first by just producing the sound on exhalation. Once this happens naturally, you can also practice exhaling with the same constriction of the glottis on inhalation. Notice how the sounds of inhalation and exhalation differ because while inhaling you are using slightly different muscles to compare with exhalation.

Benefits: Ujjayi stimulates the nadis (energy channels) in the sinuses and at the back of the throat, which, in turn, clears and calms the mind. It soothes the nervous system, slows down the heart rate and is useful for people suffering from high blood pressure. It can help relieve insomnia, so it's recommended to practice it before sleeping. Ujjayi helps to perform asanas safely as it allows us to constantly hear our own breath, it helps the mind stay present in the physical body, and teaches us about the connection of the breath to our mental and emotional states. When regularly practiced, it is an excellent doorway into natural meditation.
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