Ujjayi, pronounced oo-jy-ee, begins with the prefix Uj which means upwards or that which has superiority in rank. Uj also means to blow or expand and it conveys power. Jayi or Jaya in Sanskrit relates to conquest, victory, triumph, success. Jaya also means to restrain or hold back.
To practice Ujjayi Breathing, or any other pranayama exercise, begin by exhaling. Exhale slowly and completely to get all the old and stale air out — and then inhale slowly through your nose in a smooth and uniform manner.
The key to mastering Ujjayi is to partially close the glottis of the throat while inhaling. You will know the glottis is closed when you hear a low sweet sound in your breathing. Hear the sound ‘sa’ at the back of your throat — and as your mind begins to quiet — begin listening for a swirling sound, like a breeze in the trees, way at the back of your throat as the breath travels towards your lungs.
Let’s practice! Begin by sitting up straight and exhaling through your mouth making the sound hhhaaa. Feel the glottis at the back of the throat close automatically with this hhhaaa sound. After a few breaths, when you are halfway through the exhalation making this hhhaaa sound, go ahead and close your mouth and continue exhaling the same way, hearing the same smooth sound, yet this time through your nose.
Continuing inhaling through the nose and hearing the sound ‘sa’ and exhaling through the nose listening for the sound ‘hhhaaa’ — and all the while — create a small smile –a Mona Lisa smile with a slightly upturned mouth. This small smile will help you make the same full sound on the inhalation that is created on the exhalation.
Continuing practicing, meditating on the rhythmic smooth quality of your breath. If the breathing becomes raspy or forced it may mean you’re working too hard at it. On the other hand, if you don’t pay enough attention to the sound of the breath then you risk overhearing the sound of your thoughts and inner chatter. Meditate on the breath as often as you like during the day.
One more tip: With Ujjayi, inhale without bloating out the belly, keeping a little tautness in the belly until you are filled with breath from the pelvis to the collarbones. On the exhale, keep the spine long and the exhalation slow and steady.
Some of the many benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama: It opens the lungs, removes mucous, soothes and calms the nervous system, tones organs and muscles, and supplies the body with oxygen and endurance. Yogic scriptures tell us to perform Ujjayi to destroy decay and death.