Yogic Q & A: WHAT IS UJJAYI PRANAYAMA?

This particular style of breathing is said to enhance and empower the asana practice, with the English translation meaning “to become victorious” or “to gain mastery.” To create the Ujjayi breath, one must constrict the back of the throat, similar to the toning action made when speaking in a whisper or fogging up a mirror. Therefore, it is an audible breath that is often compared to the sound of an ocean wave. Although there is a constriction of the throat, the breath flows in and out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed, jaw muscles relaxed, and the teeth slightly parting.  In the Vinyasa style of yoga, Ujjayi pranayama is emphasized as a way to link the breath with the movement, as Vinyasa yoga is based on breath-synchronized poses. 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? 

Primary:

  • Improves concentration in the physical practice. Becoming absorbed in Ujjayi allows the practitioner to remain in poses for longer periods of time.
  • Instills endurance that enhances a flowing practice by lending a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of the class.
  • Ujjayi breath regulates heating of the body. The friction of the air passing through the lungs and throat generates internal body heat. It is similar to a massage for the internal organs; as the core becomes warm from the inside, the body becomes prepared for the asana practice. This heat makes stretching safer while the inner organs can be cleansed of any toxins that have accumulated. 

Secondary:

  • Ujjayi tells us when we need to surrender into a resting posture, as the breath should remain as even and smooth in the postures as when we rest. It allows us to practice honesty in our practice, taking a step back to let go of our ego.
  • Ujjayi allows us to practice full deep breaths during the challenges of a physical practice. Therefore, we can stay just as equanimous when faced with the challenges of our daily lives.