Ujjayi Pranayama, the victorious breath, is that audible breathe heard in yoga class that is often compared to the sound of the ocean. The lungs are fully expanded and the chest is puffed out like that of a victorious conqueror. The sound of Ujjayi pranayama serves two purposes: One, it stimulates the nadis, or energy channels, in the sinuses and at the back of the throat, which, in turn, promotes mental clarity and focus. And two, it provides a sound to focus on, so that the mind can become more still.
How to Ujjayi:
Inhale through your nose, then exhale slowly through a wide-open mouth. Direct the out-going breath slowly across the back of your throat with a drawn-out HAAAAAA sound. Repeat several times, then close your mouth. Now, as you both inhale and exhale through your nose, direct the breath again slowly across the back of your throat. This will, hopefully, create a soft hissing sound.
This sound helps to slow the breath down (which is exactly what we want for Ujjayi), to focus awareness on the breath, prevent your mind from wandering and to regulate the breath by continually monitoring and adjusting the evenness of the sound.
Eight addtionals benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama:
1. Improves concentration in the physical practice. Becoming absorbed in Ujjayi allows you to remain in poses for longer periods of time.
2. Lends a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the class.
3. Diminishes distractions and allows you to remain focused and present.
4. Regulates heating of the body.
5. Can release tension and tight areas of the body.
6. Tells us when we need to rest. It allows us to practice honesty in our practice, taking a step back to let go of our ego.
7. Allows us to practice full deep breaths during the challenges of a physical practice teaching us that we can stay just as equanimous when faced with the challenges of our daily lives.
8. Additional benefits include diminished pain from headaches, relief of sinus pressure, decrease in phlegm, and strengthening of the nervous and digestive systems.