Friday, July 24, 2009

Yogic Pranayama: Ujjayi

Ujjayi in Sanskrit means "victorious". It comes from two words that mean "conquer" and "bondage", so it is the pranayama that gives freedom from the bondage of the mind.

Ujjayi is a tranquillizing pranayama, and it also has a heating effect on the body. It soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It can help to relieve insomnia, so it is good to practise before sleep.

In the Ujjayi breathing exercise, there is a tendency to contort the face muscles. Relax the face as much as possible, and do not contract the throat strongly. The contraction is slight.

Hearing the breath
  1. Let's try the Ujjayi breath. Sit straight with your legs crossed, or on a chair with your back straight.
  2. Close your eyes. Make your breath calm and rhythmic. Now begin to focus on your throat. Imagine there is a valve in your throat that you close slightly in order to control your breath. The measure for this control is your sound, which becomes very gentle and ultimately should not require any effort or create any tension.
  3. As your breathing becomes slower and deeper, gently contract your glottis (the opening at the upper end of your windpipe, between the vocal cords) so that a soft snoring sound like the breathing of a sleeping baby is produced in your throat. If this is practised correctly, there will be a simultaneous gentle contraction of your abdomen. This will happen without any effort being made.
  4. The sound you make is not loud. It should just be audible to you and no one else, unless they are sitting very close by. Think of a cat purring and create a similar sound.
  5. After this technique is mastered, the sound is present during both inhalation and exhalation.