Definition - What does Ujjayi mean?

Ujjayi is a breathing technique used in many yoga practices, most notibly in Ashtanga yoga. It means “victorious breath” in Sanskrit. To perform ujjayi, one slightly constricts the throat while slowly inhaling through the nose, then slowly exhaling through the nose with the same glottal constriction. The constriction creates some resistance and elongates the breath, encouraging the lungs to completely expand and deflate. This form of pranayama is usually first practiced in an easy seated position and, when mastered, can be performed during more challenging asanas.

The benefits of ujjayi include:

  • Improving concentration and awareness
  • Raising internal body heat
  • Building discipline
  • Releasing tension
  • Maintaining rhythm in vinyasa flow

Ujjayi is also called "ocean breath" or "cobra breathing" in English.

Yogapedia explains Ujjayi

Ujjayi is an audible breath and has been likened to ocean waves, breathing through scuba gear, or Darth Vader’s famous inhalations/exhalations. While the sound produced during ujjayi is significant and often noted, it is not the defining characteristic. For instance, free breathing with noise is not ujjayi, even though it is sometimes referred to this way.

According to some yogis, ujjayi and asanas should not be practiced at the same time; some even say ujjayi is simply not possible to perform properly during difficult asanas due to the length of the breath. Others believe it will occur naturally during an asana when a yogi masters the pose. In vinyasa yoga, however, ujjayi is considered an important technique for synchronizing the breath with movement, and is thus used frequently.

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