How to Practice Ujjayi Breath For a Healthy Response to Stress

May 26, 2016

Have you ever been agitated to the point where you were unsure how to self-regulate your emotion? Was there ever a time when you were so nervous or anxious that the emotion made it impossible for you to think about anything else? Or, are you looking for a simple technique to relax and energize your body and mind? If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding yes, then the ancient yogic breathing technique, Ujjayi, may be for you!

How to Practice Ujjayi Breath: Cultivating a Healthy Response to Agitation and Nerves

Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) is often translated as “victorious breath,” but it is also referred to as “oceanic breath” because the sound that Ujjayi creates helps us to synchronize breath with movements. For thousands of years, it has primarily been used to enhance yoga practice, but the benefits do not stop there! Ujjayi balances one’s entire cardiorespiratory system, which expunges feelings of irritation and frustration. For such a simple practice, Ujjayi provides unparalleled value. Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath. It first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and then moves into the upper chest and throat. Some benefits you may enjoy as a result of practicing Ujjayi breath are: A feeling of an increased amount of oxygen in the blood, the building internal body heat, a release of bodily tension, better regulation of blood pressure, and increased feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative states.

So, you’re probably wondering, how do I perform this breath technique? If you’re itching to get started, follow these steps:

1. Seal your lips and start to breathe regularly— in and out through your nose.

2. 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. To get the hang of this, hold your hand in front of your mouth and imagine that your palm is a mirror. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe in and then release the breath as if you are fogging up this imaginary mirror. You might hear the constriction of the back of your throat creating a light, ocean-like sound. This is your Ujjayi breath!

How to Practice Ujjayi Breath: Cultivating a Healthy Response to Agitation and NervesUjjayi breath can be used anytime, anywhere. It can be especially useful when feeling agitated or stressed. It can help you balance the mind and find your center in difficult moments. Try to cultivate this breath technique when you feel yourself becoming annoyed or spiraling out of control. A soothing effect should be immediately noticed. Also, try this breath when you are nervous. The unhurried and cadenced nature of the Ujjayi breath is known to calm nerves and abolish worries. Some proponents even suggest employing the technique while exercising to improve respiratory efficiency and focus the mind. Experiment with the Ujjayi breath technique and see if it helps you shift your awareness to battle any agitation or nervousness that comes your way!

Do you practice Ujjayi breath? Or do you have a different go-to breathing style to help calm your nerves and clear your mind? 

Also by Leigh: How to Create Your Own Aromatherapy Mood Blends

Related: 3 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Self-Healing

Inspired Living: My Stress Emergency Kit

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Photos: Pixabay
Leigh Winters is a researcher at Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry’s New York State Psychiatric Institute. She works in the Substance Use Research Center on opioid, cocaine, and alcohol treatment trials that involve motivational enhancement therapy, pharmacological facilitation of mindfulness training, mindfulness-based relapse prevention, and mind-body practices.


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