Ocean Breath, also known as ujjayi in the yogic tradition, is one technique that helps calm the mind and warm the body. Practicing this breathing pattern also calms your body’s fight or flight response. By controlling your breath, you calm your mind and bring awareness to the present moment. Ujjayi, means ‘to conquer’ or ‘to be victorious’, as it gives one an strength to push through a moment of difficulty, particularly in yoga poses.
How to practice:
Sit up tall with your shoulders relaxed away from your ears and close your eyes. To prepare, become aware of your breath without trying to control it at all. Then begin to inhale and exhale through your mouth gently.
Bring your awareness to your throat. On your exhales, begin to tone the back of your throat (your glottis or soft palate), slightly constricting the passage of air. Imagine that you are fogging up a pair of glasses. You should hear a soft hissing sound.
Once you are comfortable with the exhale, begin to apply the same contraction of the throat to the inhales. You should, once again, hear a soft hissing sound. This is where the name of the breath comes from - it sounds like the ocean.
When you can control the throat on both the inhale and the exhale, close the mouth and begin breathing through the nose. Continue applying the same toning to the throat that you did when the mouth was open. The breath will still make a loud noise coming in and out of the nose.
Don’t tighten the throat, you just want a slight constriction.
Another way to think about ujjayi breath is to
your throat as a garden hose, with the breath passing through like a trickle of water. If you put your thumb partially over the opening of the hose, you increase the power of the water that is coming through. This is the same thing you are doing with your throat during ujjayi breathing. The air that comes in through your constricted throat is a powerful, directed breath that you can send into the parts of your body that need it.