Anxiety, Stress and Ujjayi (1/6 – Stephanie Chua)

As the eldest child in a traditional chinese family, I’m automatically tasked to be a role model for my siblings and family. I am always worrying that I will never be good enough for my parents, my siblings or anyone. I was always chasing and attempting these unwanted expectations and fulfilling heavy responsibilities imposed by others. At some point, I gradually learnt to cope unhealthily with the manifestations that were named anxiety and stress.

Sometimes, they nibble at me but I am able to deal with it by burying it somewhere deep inside my mind. Sometimes, they consume me like an avalanche. I will be suffocated, feel like my head and chest will burst from the pressure. Then I took yoga and learnt how to breathe. Consciously. Funny how we all take breathing for granted and never really ‘noticed’ it. It was during Yoga Teacher Training that I learnt it has a name.

Ujjayi. In English, it means Ocean’s Breath. It’s been used for aeons by yogis.

Ujjayi helps to balance one’s cardio-respiratory system, releasing toxic feelings such as irritation and frustration, thus effectively calming the mind and body.

What are the key benefits of Ujjayi?

  • Relieves tension
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Builds energy
  • Detoxes the mind and body
  • Increases feelings of presence and self-awareness

How do you Ujjayi?

  • Keep your mouth close, start to breath in and out through your nose.
  • Inhale through your nose, exhale slowly through your nose while constricting the muscles at the back of your throat.
  • The sound when you exhale should sound like the Luke Skywalker’s dad, Darth Vader. Technically it’s supposed to sound like the gentle whisper of the ocean waves when it crashes into the shore, but I find the Darth Vader one more accurate.

When do you Ujjayi?

  • When you are feeling overwhelmed by stress.
  • When you are feeling nervous or anxious.
  • During your yoga practice so you can stay focused.
  • While you are exercising.

So remember, whenever one feels anxious or stress due to expectations, work, or anything that Life throws at you to make these toxic feelings manifest, go to a quiet place, close your eyes and Ujjayi.