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Ujjayi Pranayama - The Psychic Breath, How to do Ujjayi Pranayama - The Psychic Breath, Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama - The Psychic Breath, Precautions, & a note for yoga practitioners

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama (the psychic breath) soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It has a profoundly relaxing effect at the psychic level. 

  1. How To Do Ujjayi Pranayama (The Psychic Breath)
    1. Ujjayi Pranayama: Technique I
      1. Extension
      2. Duration
      3. Precautions while doing Technique I
      4. Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits (Technique I)
      5. Practice note:
    2. Ujjayi Pranayama Technique 2: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)
      1. Precautions while doing Technique 2: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)
      2. Practice note: 
  2. Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
  3. Precaution while doing Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
  4. Note
  5. Preparatory practices
  6. Types of Pranayamas  

How To Do Ujjayi Pranayama (The Psychic Breath)

Ujjayi Pranayama: Technique I

  • Sit in any comfortable meditation asana.
  • Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
  • Take the awareness of the breath in the nostrils and allow the breathing to become calm and rhythmic.
  • After some time, transfer the awareness to the throat. Feel or imagine that the breath is being drawn in and out through the throat and not through the nostrils, as if it is taking place through a small hole in the throat.
  • As the breathing becomes slower and deeper, gently contract the glottis so that a soft snoring sound, like the breathing of a sleeping baby, is produced in the throat. If practised correctly, there will be a spontaneous contraction of the abdomen, without any effort being made.
  • Both inhalation and exhalation should be long, deep and controlled.
  • Practise yogic breathing while concentrating on the sound produced by the breath in the throat.
  • The sound of the breath should be audible to the practitioner alone.

Extension

  • When this breathing has been mastered, fold the tongue back into khechari mudra (refer to the section Mudra).
  • If the tongue becomes tired, release it, while continuing the ujjayi breathing. When the tongue is rested, again fold it back.

Duration

  • Begin with 10 breaths and slowly increase to 5 minutes for general benefits.
  • As an adjunct to meditation or mantra repetition, practise for 10 to 20 minutes.

Precautions while doing Technique I

  • People who are too introverted by nature should not perform this practice.

Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits (Technique I)

  • Ujjayi is classified as a tranquilliser pranayama and it also has a heating effect on the body. This practice soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It has a profoundly relaxing effect at the psychic level. It helps to relieve insomnia and may be practised in shavasana just before sleep. It slows down the heart rate and is useful for people suffering from high blood pressure.

Practice note:

  • Ujjayi may be performed in any position, standing, sitting or lying. Those suffering from slipped disc or vertebral spondylitis may practise ujjayi in vajrasana or makarasana.
  • Relax the face as much as possible. Do not contract the throat too strongly. The contraction should be slight and applied continuously throughout the practice.

Ujjayi Pranayama Technique 2: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

  • The inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and controlled.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose.
  • Retain the breath inside with awareness at ajna or hindu. The exhalation should be as long as is comfortable. Do not strain when performing kumbhaka; one or two seconds is sufficient at first. 
  • The duration may be increased gradually as the technique is mastered.

Precautions while doing Technique 2: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

  • Those suffering from heart disease should not combine bandhas or breath retention with ujjayi.

Practice note: 

  • Inner retention should be gradually increased as it helps in increasing introversion and concentration.

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

  • Before applying the bandhas in this practice, they should be perfected as individual practices. For details of these practices refer to the section Bandha.
  • Once antar kumbhaka has been mastered, bandhas may be incorporated.
  • Jalandhara bandha: Inhale for a long, smooth breath. Practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention for a comfortable duration.
  • Release jalandhara and exhale. This is one round.
  • Jalandhara and moola bandhas: Inhale. Practise jalandhara and then moola bandha, holding the breath inside for a comfortable duration.
  • Release moola bandha and then jalandhara and exhale. This is one round. Once the bandha can be held without strain, gradually build up the number of rounds.

Precaution while doing Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

  • Do not practise pranayama with bandhas without the guidance of a competent teacher or guru.
  • Those suffering from heart disease should not combine bandhas or breath retention with ujjayi.

Note

  • The Sanskrit word ujjayi means ‘victorious’. It is derived from the rootji, which means ‘to conquer’ or ‘to acquire by conquest’, and the prefix ud, which means ‘bondage ‘. Ujjayi is therefore the pranayama which gives freedom from bondage. It is also known as the psychic breath, as it leads to subtle states of mind and is used together with khechari mudra, the tongue lock, in tantric meditation techniques such as mantra japa, ajapa japa, kriya yoga and prana vidya.

Preparatory practices

  1. Natural breathing
  2. Abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
  3. Thoracic breathing
  4. Clavicular breathing
  5. Yogic breathing

Types of Pranayamas  

  1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Psychic network purification)
  2. Sheetali Pranayama (Cooling breath)
  3. Sheetkari Pranayama (Hissing breath)
  4. Bhramari Pranayama (Humming bee breath)
  5. Ujjayi Pranayama (The psychic breath)
  6. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows breath)
  7. Kapalbhati Pranayama (Frontal brain cleansing breath)
  8. Moorchha Pranayama (Swooning or fainting breath)
  9. Surya Bhedi Pranayama (Vitality stimulating breath)

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