Here’s how to do ujjayi breathing, in four simple steps:
- Exhale the word “haaaa” in a prolonged whisper. If your voice sounds like distant applause or faraway surf, you’ve got it. If not, then hold your hand in front of your mouth and pretend it’s a mirror. Fog it with your breath. If that doesn’t make an audible “h” sound, then pretend you’re Marilyn Monroe whispering a languid “Hi” into someone’s ear. Once you’ve got a good whispering “haaaa…”, exhale that way a few times in a row.
- Then try it again, but continue making the “haaa” sound when you inhale. This requires keeping the muscles of the soft palette and throat in exactly the same position from the beginning of the exhale to the end of the inhale. If you succeed, your breath will sound like Darth Vader’s or like you’re snorkeling. Do a few cycles of breath like this.
- After you’ve got the hang of making this continuous “h” sound with your mouth open, then close your mouth and continue to breathe. The whisper will be muffled, but you’ll notice that your breath has a distinctive sound. You may be more aware of the sensation of it moving through your throat and sinuses. See if you can follow – or at least imagine – the sensation extending all the way to the bottom of your heart.
- As a final step, extend the length and depth of your breath. Visualize each inhalation filling your whole abdominal cavity with air, starting with the bottom of the bowl of your pelvis and pouring it full all the way to the brim of your collarbones. Exhale from bottom to top too, squeezing the air out the lower reaches of your torso before and working your way up through your abdomen and chest.
Once you have the mechanics roughly down, relax for a minute or two, breathing normally. Notice how normal breathing feels, being aware of your feelings and state of mind as well as your body. Now, try ujjayi breathing again, and observe whether any sensations change in your mind, body, or emotions.