Cultivate Calm with Ujjayi Breathing

Woodlake Nature Center, Walking Meditation Way Opening Workshops 2022

Maia Writes:

We need a repertoire of tricks to help ease stress.  Especially stress that is ambient and unrelenting- war, poverty and inflation, climate crisis, an unrelenting pandemic, racial inequality.  It all adds up into a communal equation of strain.

People are talking about the ujjayi breath, also called the “Darth Vader breath.”  Kimberly Wilson – cake baker extraordinaire on the Great British Bakeoff- and simultaneously a psychologist- is an author who writes about this and inspired me to try it. She says that this kind of breath of nasal breathing activates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is super cool!  Apparently, it is an “information highway” between the brain and the gut, running through all our internal organs. It releases a hormone called acytecolene which is calming for the body, and which is especially activated by constricted throat breathing like ujjayi.

So here is how you do it- it is simple. Constrict the back of the throat when you exhale (like you are fogging up your bathroom mirror)- only, exhale through the nose for a count of four, and inhale through the nose for a count of four, and then hold your breath at the top for a count of four- Repeat.  This pattern stimulates the vagus nerve, and honestly- I can feel immediate effect in my body when I practice this. Studies show that two minutes of this allows your blood pressure to drop and inflammation to decrease.

Obvious Disclaimer- this breath will not change the conditions around you- there will still be climate change. There will still be racial inequity. Inflation – also still real. And my kitchen is messy, my lawn is drying up, and my dogs need walking. But with this calm activation in the body, we are all more able to be a change agent in the world. Better equipped to express faith and values in the lives we live. A byproduct of this calm brings more awareness of divine guidance, and more openness to its leading. May it be so, for you- your loved ones- and your family Earth.

Source: How to Build a Healthy Brain by Kimberly Wilson

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