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Whether you’re just starting out on your yoga journey or are an advanced practitioner, the Ujjayi breath is a powerful technique that you can use to transform your practice. Ujjayi breathing is speicial because unlike some other forms of pranayama, or breathing exercises, it can be used during your moving asana practice, as well as whilst seated – adding a new dimension to your yoga practice.
The breath of victory
Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word that means “one who is victorious;” so Ujjayi breath means “breath of victory” or “victorious breath.” This is because the technique brings a sense of upliftment, power, and confidence to the practitioner. To do Ujjayi breath, close your mouth and breathe deeply through your nose. As you do so, slightly contract the muscles at the back of the throat. Doing so will create the rhythmic, calming sound of ocean waves, which sooth and focus the mind. This unique attribute gives this breathing technique its other name: the ocean breath.
Integrating Ujjayi pranayama into your practice will deepen your experience both on and off the mat. Here we share the top five benefits of Ujjayi:
1. Physical Health
The technique builds internal heat which helps release tight areas of the body, thus making us less prone to injuries while stretching. At the same time, by taking deep breaths to expand the lungs further than usual, circulation increases and toxins are released from the inner organs. Further benefits include strengthening the immune system and improving sleep. Furthermore, this type of breath provides us assistance in controlling high blood pressure and thyroid problems, all while rejuvenating the nervous system.
2. Flow of Energy
The Ujjayi breath allows more prana, our vital life-force, to enter the mind-body system. There, it cleanses the channels (nadis) through which it passes of their stagnant energy, thus helping the body overcome fatigue, stress, and negativity. Furthermore, this pranayama encourages the movement of energy from the root energy center all the way up to the crown.
3. Relieving Stress
When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or nervous, the slow, concentrated, rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath has been shown to be effective in calming the nervous system almost immediately. Studies also reveal that this breath technique balances the cardiorespiratory system. Restoring balance to these two systems helps to release stress, irritation, and frustration. Furthermore, it also calms the mind and body.
The meditative quality brought about by the steadiness, sound, and depth of the Ujjayi breath helps align the mind, body, and spirit with the present moment, making us more self-aware. When this happens, mental clarity and focus increases, the flow between yoga poses is effortless, stability is enhanced, and it’s possible to hold postures for longer periods of time. Maintaining the Ujjayi breath throughout your practice, be it in hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, or any other tradition allows you to remain centered, grounded and embodied all while keeping thoughts at bay.
5. Meditation & Relaxation
The Ujjayi breath promotes calmness in the body and mind. The constriction of the throat causes vibrations in the larynx, stimulating sensory receptors that signal the vagus nerve to relax the mind and body. This contraction also exerts a gentle pressure on the carotid sinuses in the neck, leading to reduced tension. The slow, steady rhythm of the breath also makes it easier to let go during restorative postures and further supports sense withdrawal, helping you ease your way into a meditative state.
Ujjayi is a profound pranayama with far-reaching benefits. Use Ujjayi breath in your asana practice and begin experiencing its power.