Yoga is an effective therapy for managing stress and anxiety. In this post, we’ll discuss one such breathing technique also called Ujjayi Pranayama. It has numerous health benefits including helping manage stress, and at the same time managing blood pressure, and increasing lung capacity.
Yoga is increasingly used in clinical settings for a variety of mental and physical health issues, particularly stress-related illnesses and concerns, and has demonstrated promising efficacy1. Controlled breathing not only keeps your mind and body functioning at their best, but it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation and help you de-stress2. Relaxation induced by meditation helps to stabilize the autonomic nervous system with a tendency toward parasympathetic dominance (which is the rest and digest function of the body)3.
Also read – Hatha Yoga Health Benefits
Pranayama that stimulates deeper, more consistent breathing patterns, such as Ujjayi breath, can be appropriate depending on the intensity of your stress or anxiety.
How To Practice Ujjayi Pranayama
- Begin by sitting in a relaxed position, such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Close your eyes lightly and relax your body. Allow your mouth to gently open. Your jaw and tongue should be relaxed.
- Deeply inhale and exhale through your mouth. Feel the air going through your windpipe as you inhale.
- Slightly constrict the back of your throat on exhalations, as if you were whispering. As you exhale, softly murmur the word “ahhh.” Consider how your breath might cause a window to fog up.
- Maintain a slight tightness in the neck on your inhalations as you get more comfortable with your exhalations. Your breath will make an “ocean” sound, going in and out softly like ocean waves.
- When you can easily manage your throat during inhalations and exhalations, gently close your mouth and start breathing just via your nose. Keep your throat restricted the same way it was while your mouth was open. As you breathe through your nose, you will continue to hear the “ocean” sound. Direct your breath over the back of your throat, across your vocal cords. Close your mouth but keep your lips soft.
- Allow your thoughts to be relaxed by focusing on the sound of your breath. It should be audible to you, but not so loud that it can be heard by someone standing a few feet away.
- Allow your inhalations to expand your lungs to their maximum capacity. During your exhalations, completely expel the air.
- Start by sitting for five minutes and practicing Ujjayi. Increase your meditation duration to 15 minutes for a more in-depth experience. Begin to integrate your breath into your movement gradually. Inhale with Ujjayi as you expand and lengthen your yoga postures (“asanas”), then exhale with Ujjayi as you constrict and fold forward. Maintain the link between Ujjayi breath and asanas throughout your Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga practice.
- When you’ve finished your exercise and come in Corpse Pose, let out your Ujjayi breath (Savasana).
References and Further Reading
- How does yoga reduce stress? A systematic review of mechanisms of change and guide to future inquiry. (2015). Health Psychology Review. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437199.2014.981778
- Banstola, D. (2017). Effect of Yoga Breathing Exercises on Ventilatory Function. Journal of Gandaki Medical College-Nepal, 9(2), 17–22. https://doi.org/10.3126/jgmcn.v9i2.17861
- Europe PMC. (2016). Europe PMC. Europepmc.org. https://europepmc.org/article/med/15352751