Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) breathing can be both energising and relaxing. The idea is to even out the breath by making a soft sound in the back of the throat, making it regular and smooth.

The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound.

One way to get in the mood for a yoga practice is to sit on the floor, cross-legged if that is comfortable for you, or on two or three blocks (as we did this week), and do at least 10 rounds  

If you are new to the idea, try these steps:

Seal your lips and start to breath in and out through your nose.

Take an inhalation through your nose that is slightly deeper than normal. Exhale slowly through your nose while constricting the muscles in the back of your throat. Listen to your breathing for a few rounds.

To make the ujjayi sound, open your mouth and try exhaling the sound “HAAAAH”—it’s similar to the sound you make when you’re trying to fog up a mirror. Get comfortable with this sound to get the hang of the practice.

Close your mouth and attempt a similar sound, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, you can use the same method for the in breath, gently constricting the back of your throat as you inhale. This is harder so you may feel happier just focussing on the exhale.

You might like to think of the sound like waves in the ocean—the inhales can be compared to the sound the ocean makes as the water is gathering up to form the wave, the exhales can be compared to the sound of the waves moving out along the shore. You can try cupping the hands over the ears to deepen the sound.

When to Use Ujjayi Breath

When you’re agitated: Since the Ujjayi breath is especially good for settling agitation and stress, and balancing the mind, see if it helps whenever you find yourself becoming anxious or stressed.

When you’re practicing hatha yoga: Try focusing on Ujjayi breathing while practicing yoga to help you stay focused and centred in postures like downward dog and cat.

When you want to relax or meditate: The slow and rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath quietens the mind and stops the chatter of thoughts.

Here is a reminder of some of what we practised this week