Ujjayi Pranayama & Smoking Cannabis: One Breath

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Something I like to go over before the start of my cannabis-enhanced yoga classes is how to practice ujjayi pranayama (a breathing technique used in yoga), and how to smoke cannabis to get the strongest results possible. Essentially, these techniques have exactly the same principles; both ujjayi pranayama and smoking cannabis require a smooth and deep full inhale into the lungs and belly, followed by holding the breath at the top of the inhale, then a slow release of breath on the exhale.

A common mistake people new to smoking cannabis make is to assume it’s the same as smoking a cigarette, so they only bring the smoke into their mouth and then exhale right away. This is why the first few times people smoke cannabis they complain that they didn’t get “high” at all. Even some of my long term smoker students find that their smoking methods tend to be more shallow, not fully expanding their lungs to take in all of the smoke. Learning how to do ujjayi breathing greatly improves smoking techniques as it increases the expansion of the lungs, allowing for more cannabis to be absorbed into the capillaries and blood vessels, which produces a stronger high.

What is ujjayi pranayama?

Also known as ocean breath or victorious breath, ujjayi is produced by inhaling and exhaling through the nose, with a slight constriction at the back of the throat to create a sound a lot like ocean waves. Ujjayi breathing is practiced before meditation and during most yoga posture classes as a way to focus the mind, guide the body through pose transitions, increase body heat, and improve oxygenation within the body. For me, the most useful part of ujjayi pranayama is that it cultivates awareness. Since ujjayi breathing is meant to be smooth and unrestrained, the moment it becomes short or choppy it’s a clear message that we’ve pushed too hard and need to lessen the intensity of a pose until the breath returns to calm ujjayi.

How to do ujjayi breathing

  1. For beginners, I suggest laying on your back in savasana (corpse pose) or supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose). Place one palm on your stomach and the other on your heart so you can feel your stomach and chest rise and fall with your breath.
  2. Keep your lips gently sealed as you take a long, slow, deep inhale starting from the pit of your stomach. Feel the oxygen in your belly as your palm rises. As you continue to inhale, feel your breath enter your chest and then your throat. Once the breath enters your throat, hold it for a brief moment, then open your mouth and make a “HHHHAAAA” sound as you slowly exhale. Feel your palms fall as your chest and stomach flatten.
  3. Repeat step 2 three times, trying to make your inhales last just as long as your exhales (ie. if you inhale for five beats, exhale for five).
  4. On your next inhale take your breath all the way to the top and hold for a brief moment again. This time keep your lips sealed and try to recreate that “HHHHAAAA” sound as you exhale through your nose. This creates a slight constriction in the back of your throat, and the breath released will sound like ocean waves.
  5. Practice this several times, just creating the throat constriction on your exhales. When you are ready, create that constriction as you inhale. Keep this up for 5 breaths (this is full ujjayi pranayama), then return to your normal breathing. If you’ve tried ujjayi pranayama before you may go for longer.

Ujjayi applied to smoking cannabis

As your ujjayi breathing evolves and you start to gain more control over the length of your inhales and exhales as well as the expansion of your lungs, your ability to take in more cannabis and hold it will improve. Unlike cigarettes, when you smoke cannabis it is important to hold the smoke in your lungs to feel the effects. You won’t need to recreate the constriction in your throat while smoking though, simply use the steps for proper ujjayi pranayama while omitting that part, and when you reach the top of your inhale take in one more sip of fresh air. You’ll take in more smoke and get the most out of your ganja.

I hope these techniques find you well and answer some questions you may have about how to smoke cannabis or perform proper ujjayi pranayama 🙂 If you have any questions, ask me in the comments below! Let me know if you try any of these, how you find them, or if you have any suggestions of your own!

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