Calming the Rajasic Mind with Ujjayi Breath

One of the reasons I started practicing yoga regularly is the effect that I noticed yoga has on me in terms of helping me relieve stress. No matter what stress burdens I carry into the yoga practice, I always come back from svasana feeling more centered and calm. Always. When we experience high levels of stress, yoga philosophy describes our mind as going into a rajasic state characterised by agitation, tension (hence tension headaches) and flitting thoughts. Asanas that stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system such as saravangasana (shoulderstand) and baddha konasana (bound angle forward bend) can help to calm the rajasic mind. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that there is a strong link between pranayama (yogic breathing) and state of mind.

When we are in a rajasic state of mind, our breathing is often rapid and shallow and our sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. Ujjayi breath has a calming ability in that when we breathe through our nose and constrict our throat, we increase the air resistance in our nasal passages which in turn slows down our respiratory rate. As we lengthen the exhalation to twice that of inhalation (e.g. 1:2 ratio) we also increase the circulation of oxygen in our body and release carbon dioxide more slowly. The ocean-like sound created when we practice ujjayi breath also serves as a meditative center that we can focus on all of which helps us to come to a more sattvic state of mind.

I’ve found ujjayi breath invaluable and has taken it to work and used it whenever I feel stressed. The age-old adage ‘just breathe!’ has been imbued with new meaning for me indeed.