“Having closed the opening of the Nâdî (Larynx), the air should be drawn in such a way that it goes touching from the throat to the chest, and making noise while passing.”Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:51
“Ud” is a prefix which means moving upward, “Jaya” means conquest, victory. Therefore, its usually translated as “Victorious”. Also Ujjayi method of breathing work in a way that lungs are expanded fully in all directions, hence the chest expands and moves upwards similarly to that of a victorious warrior.
Technically by slightly contracting the region at the back of the throat as we do when we swallow we are partially contracting the glottis which produces the snoring sound. The sound must come from the throat and not forced to come through the nose. This breath is often compared to the sound of the ocean. Make inhalation and exhalation through the nose only and make them long, deep and controlled.
Sri. T. Krishnamacharya used to give the standard instruction: “Feel rubbing sensation in throat.” There is also the explanation with more details done by A.G. Mohan in his book “Krishnamacharya: his life and teachings”: “To regulate the breath during the practice of asanas, the technique of Ujjayi breathing is important. In Ujjayi breathing you constrict your vocal cords slightly as you breathe so that you can feel the air as it flows past. A slight hissing sound often results — the more you constrict your throat and force your breath, the louder the sound. Conversely, the more finely you control your breath, the softer the sound. The goal is not to create a lot of sound but rather less sound. With practice and greater control, you should be able to breathe slowly and very smoothly. Then the sound will diminish and you can direct your attention to a more subtle indicator: the internal sensation of your breath flowing.”
In Ashtanga Yoga the Ujjayi is emphasized as a way to link the breath with the movement as asana sequences are based on breath-synchronized poses. It is important to mention that Ujjayi breath is not the same as Ujjayi pranayama as this pranayama technique includes Kumbhaka (breath retention) which we do not do during performing asanas.
Ujjayi is also known as the “psychic breath” because of its effect on the mind. It helps to relax the physical body and the mind, and develops awareness of the subtle body and psychic sensitivity and promotes internalization of the senses and pratyahara. Here Ujjayi is a step towards meditation practice as deep concentration on the producing the sound brings the mind within. And when our awareness is within we do not use the energy but we keep and it and enlarge.
Since the concentration is improving the asana practice is also improving and it becomes possible to remain in the poses for longer period of time. The breath instills endurance that enhances a flowing practice by lending a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the class. It also diminishes distractions and allows the practitioner to remain self aware and grounded in the practice. If the breath is not stable, tensed and fast it shows lack of concentration and energy loss.
The air going through the glottis becomes hot and this heated air moves to the lungs. The friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal body heat. This is the reason why practitioners sweat during the practice as the hot air makes the body hot. If we combine the Ujjayi breath and posture we get very powerful effect of detox while the heart works in a very secure mode. This heat makes the stretching safer while the inner organs prepared for the asana practice. Ujjayi makes pulse slower so the physical part of the yoga practice becomes easier to perform. A focused Ujjayi breath can release tension and tight areas of the body.
At the same time muscles of respiration become stronger as we train them during the practice. One more effect of practicing Ujjayi breath is improving the bronchi condition and extraction of unwanted mucous. The breath pressure stretches the bronchi passages. It also diminish pain from headaches, relief of sinus pressure, decrease in phlegm, and strengthening of the nervous and digestive systems.
Apart of a number health benefits occur due to practicing Ujjayi breath we have to mention that when we can hear our breath we can control it. We can equalize inhale and exhale with ease. While controlling the breath we can control the mind and this is most important aspect of the yoga practice. The true knowledge can come only when the mind is stable.