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Ujjaya Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama is part of one of the eight pranayamas described by sage Svatmaram in Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The word “Ujjayi” means “victorious”. It is a breathing process in which your chest puffs out like that of a “conqueror” as you begin to inhale by slightly contracting the back of the throat. Basically, by contracting the back of the throat, you are partially closing your glottis and continuing to breathe in and breath out from the partially open glottis.

Method

Step 1: Sit comfortably in any position. Keep your spine neutral and rest part of the body relaxed.

Step 2: Be aware of your breath. Slightly contract the area at the back of your throat.

Step 3: Take a slow, deep steady breath through both nostrils. You will feel the air passing through the roof of the palate creating some sound.

Step 4: Fill the lungs up to the brim.

Step 5: Exhale slowly, deeply and steadily, until the lungs are completely emptied. While exhaling as well, you will feel the touch of the passing air at the roof of the palate.

Step 6: The inhalation and exhalation should be long, deep and completely controlled.

Step 7: Your facial muscles should be relaxed throughout the process.

Ujjayi breathing is extensively used during Ashtanga Vinyasa (a form of yoga), which combines yogic postures in a flow (building endurance). Ujjayi breathing is not only one of the most recommended breathing technique for balancing your blood pressure but it also helps maximize oxygen intake supporting the engaged muscles and thereby strengthening the core muscles as well. Regular practice of Ujjayi tones up the lungs as well as helps regulate internal body heat.

The best part about Ujjayi breathing is that unlike other yogic breathing, it can be done while sitting, standing, moving and even walking.

How to feel the back of throat:  Whispering Sound: when you whisper for some time, you will feel that a particular area at the root of the tongue is getting massaged that is the area which you need to use for Ujjayi breathing.  ‘Ha’ Sound: Silently say ‘Ha’ for some time to be aware and feel the area in throat for Ujjayi.

How to partially lock the throat: If you are not able to feel this contraction naturally, slightly move your chin down and you can start to feel so.

Frequency: Ten to twenty rounds at one go depending upon the capacity. If you are comfortable, you can do for any length of time as per your comfort.

Ujjayi Pranayama with AUM: The process is same as described above. However, you can continue to inhale and exhale by mentally chanting Aum every single time.

Benefits

  • High Blood Pressure: Ujjayi Pranayama is one of the most recommended Pranayama for High Blood Pressure and shows almost immediate effect.
  • Insomnia: Performing Ujjayi Pranayama including Aum chanting helps deal with insomnia when performed on the bed before retiring for the day.
  • Stress Buster: Ujjayi Pranayama by integrating Aum calms the nervous system and helps one ignore all worries and tensions from the mind.
  • Thyroid: This practice is also very effective in case of thyroid
  • Improving VO2 Max / Endurance / Aerobic/ Runners / Cyclists: Endurance based sports enthusiasts (e.g. runners, cyclists) are well versed with the fact that maximum oxygen consumption plays a critical role in their success as improved VO2 max help them direct large amount of blood to the working skeletal muscles during their practice.
  • Breathing in Ujjayi Pranayama is deliberately made hard by partially closing the glottis. If one can continue to practice Ujjayi Pranayama with narrow passage, one would find it easy and comfortable to breathe very easily and comfortably when the passage is wide open.

Contraindications

  • Anyone with low blood pressure should first correct his or her condition.
  • Avoid in case of acute disorder of lungs or throat infection.

Note: This is the very basic version of Ujjayi Pranayama. In the final stage, you will need to apply kumbhak (breath retention).

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