Ujjayi Breathing


Ujjayi breathing is a popular style of breathing for ashtanga and vinyasa yoga practices. It is referred to as breathing with sound. People using ujjayi breathing during their yoga practice sound like Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies.

Uj means to expand. Jayi means success or victory. When you practice Ujjayi breathing you expand into our own success or victory.

Ujjayi breathing is most commonly translated as victory breath.

Breathing with Sound

In yoga, the master of the mind is prana or life force.

The master of prana is sound.

Therefore, the sound of your breathing during your yoga practice is very important. It gives your mind something to focus on. Ujjayi breathing is an attentiveness training technique, and it enables you to practice mindfully.  This is especially important when doing vinyasa yoga (linking a series of postures together).  Movements in and out of the postures are done on an inhalation or exhalation.

The act of listening to your breath also refines the breath, quiets the mind, and keeps bringing you back to the moment.

While you are learning ujjayi breathing think of your breath sounding like a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, a waterfall in the distance, or the ocean from afar, whichever image is more relaxing to you. Mastering ujjayi breathing like anything else takes practice. Be patient and do not get frustrated.

Ujjayi Breathing Lesson

· In Ujjayi breathing the back of the throat should be relaxed and widened producing a slight closing of  the glottis which in turn produces the air to make a gentle whispering sound.

· Begin your practice of ujjayi breathing by whispering an “ahhh ” or “urr” sound with your mouth open. Begin on an exhalation and feel the breath touching the back of your throat.

· Completely empty the lungs with the sound.

· Now inhale whispering an “ahhh” or “urrr” sound. Again, feel the breath touching the back of your throat.

· Completely fill the lungs with the sound.

·  Repeat this sequence several more times.

·  Now, exhale with your mouth open then halfway through the exhalation close your mouth so the breath switches to your nostrils while maintaining the feeling of air striking at the back of the throat.

· Do the same with the inhale. Start with your mouth open. Close your mouth half way through the breath and feel the air on the back of your throat.

· Listen to the sound – a soft aspirant sound on the inhale and a throaty hissing sound on the exhale.

· This is the beginning of ujjayi breathing.

· As your practice of ujjayi breathing continues, make sure you finish each inhalation and exhalation completely.

Each inhalation will eventually expand your back, the kidney area, the chest around the diaphragm, and will fill the heart area fully to the collarbones and the inner armpits.

Each exhalation will create a lifting of the pelvic floor.

The qualities of ujjayi breathing are: smoothness, evenness, depth and strength.