"When the mind is agitated, change the pattern of the breath." –Patanjali, Yoga Sutras
Taking slow, deep breaths activates the calming and restorative part of the nervous system, called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS counterbalances the activating part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The PNS and SNS work together to keep you balanced.
Sometimes we need even more relaxation than simply breathing slowly and deeply. This is when we can use resistance breathing.
Resistance breathing is any form of breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air. Victory Breath (also known as Ocean Breath) is one form of resistance breathing. Other examples of resistance breathing include placing your tongue against the inside of the upper teeth, pursing the lips, or breathing through an external object like a straw.
Why would you want to create airway resistance? It increases pressure in the lungs, which heightens stimulation of the PNS–the soothing part of the nervous system. Activating the PNS will slow the heart rate, restore energy reserves, reduce inflammation, and calm the mind. Need I say more? The form of resistance breathing outlined below goes by many names: Victory Breath, Ocean Breath, and in Sanskrit, ujjayi pranayama. Ujjayi means "victory over the mind through the breath." The gist of Victory Breath involves tightening the muscles in the upper back of the throat and making a soft sound like the sound of the ocean in a seashell. Follow the steps below to try it for yourself.
Steps for Victory Breath
Sit comfortably with a tall spine and your shoulders back and down.
Place one hand directly in front of your mouth, palm facing toward you.
Open your mouth and exhale, imagining you are steaming up a mirror. You will make an audible ahhhh sound like you just took a lovely sip of cold water on a hot day.
Inhale with your mouth open while trying to make the ahhhh sound. Focus on the tightening the muscles in the upper back part of your throat.
Repeat with your mouth open until you are ready to close your mouth.
Place your palm in your lap.
Zip your lips and inhale and exhale through your nose, trying to make the same sound. It will sound something like white noise.
Breathe slowly and gently with Victory Breath for 5-10 breath cycles or set a timer for 1 to 2 minutes.
Notice how your body feels. Notice the quality of your thoughts and emotions.
You can practice Victory Breath anytime. For the most relaxing effects, it is best to practice with Coherent Breathing, which is outlined in a previous post found here. Be well,