In my previous post, we had discussed Ujjayi Pranayama, the steps to perform it and its benefits. This post, we shall see 6 variations of Ujjayi Pranayama.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through both nostrils. The lungs should be full.
- Exhale slowly through both nostrils to evacuate the lungs completely.
This completes one cycle. Repeat the cycles for 10 to 15 minutes. See that the pranayama is done through pulmonary breathing and not through abdominal breathing.
While performing the basic form of Ujjayi Pranayama, fix your awareness on the inhalations and the exhalations. Think that you are imbibing prana from the all-pervading universal source, infusing all the cells of the body with it and storing it in the chakras. This is important.
Variety – 2 (With Ajapa Japa)
All human beings, from birth to death, are busy in uttering the mantra so’ham in the course of their normal respiration. They silently utter so during inhalations and during exhalation. Unconsciously they do it. The sound is clearly audible to the Yogi in his intense state of dhyana or samadhi. This process is known as ajapa japa.
To perform variety-2 of Ujjayi Pranayama, introduce the ajapa japa in the basic form of ujjayi.
While inhaling, mentally utter (without producing sound) so and, while exhaling, ham. In synchronization with uttering the mantra so, shift your awareness from the nostrils through your ajna chakra, and sahasrara down to muladhara, and with uttering the mantra ham, shift your awareness from the muladhara through the sahasrara and the ajna to the nostrils.
Variety – 3 (With Pranava Japa)
It is the same basic form of Ujjayi with the introduction of the japa of pranava (‘om’). While inhaling, mentally utter om and while exhaling, also do the same pranava japa, om.
Every entity of the universe, living or non-living, and the universe as a whole is constantly busing in the subtle utterance of the pranava. This universal japa is unconsciously done. Its sound is clearly audible to a yogi in his intense state of dhyana or samadhi.
The shifting of awareness during inhalations and exhalations follows the same pattern as in variety-2.
Variety – 4 (With Jalandhara Bandha)
Sit in siddhasana, padmasana, or svastikasana with jalandhara bandha or chin mudra. Inhale and exhale as in variety-1. Listen to the sibilant sound (ssss) during inhalation and the aspirate sound (hhhh) during exhalation.
After each inhalation and exhalation, allow a fractional pause. This momentary pause is not the real kumbhaka.
Note: Jalandhara Bandha is usually practiced during antara kumbhaka and bahya kumbhaka. It is not usually recommended for puraka* and recaka*. The usual recommendation is: ‘Do not inhale and exhale while you are in the Jalandhara Bandha. However, Ujjayi pranayama is an exception. Jalandhara Bandha can be practiced during all the three states (puraka, kumbhaka, and recaka) of ujjayi. It may preferably be dispensed within ujjayi when done in a standing or a lying down posture or in a sitting posture on a hard chair.
Variety – 5 (With Khechari-Mudra and Jalandhara Bandha)
This is the same as variety-4 except the following.
Add Khechari-Mudra to Jalandhara Bandha and chin-mudra. Khechari-Muda is not practiced in a supine* posture. Hence, do not practice variety-5, in savasana.
Variety – 6 (With Antara Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka)
Exhale (recaka) fully. Retain your breath outside for two seconds. During this bahya kumbhaka, remain in Jalandhara Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha.
Release the bandhaas and inhale fully. Repeat the cycles.
Be aware of the inhalations with the sibilant sound (ssss) and the exhalations with the aspirated sound (hhhhaaaa).
Gradually increase the period of bahya kumbhaka up to 5 seconds.
Note 1: Uddiyana Bandha is practiced during recaka and bahya kumbhaka only. It is contraindicated during puraka and antara kumbhaka. Its practice would strain the heart if done simultaneously with inhalation or internal retention.
Note 2: Mula bandha is not contraindicated during any stage of pranayama. However, both mula bandha and jalandhara bandha are specifically recommended for antara kumbhaka.
Very little risk is involved in Ujjayi pranayama when done without kumbhaka. It is comparatively easy for practice. It is recommended for everybody unless someone has any serious health problem such as heart disease, asthma, and very serious hypertension.
For yoga-nidra, the basic form of ujjayi pranayama (variety-1), or its combination with ajapa japa (variety-2) or pranava japa (variety-3) is highly recommended.
*Aspirate – A sound with an exhalation of breath
*Puraka – Slow, steady, and deep inhalation
*Recaka – Slow, steady, and full exhalation
*Sibilant – Making a hissing sound
*Supine – Lying flat on one’s back – face upwards
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