Definition - What does Ujjayi mean?
Ujjayi is a type of breathing exercise, or pranayama, employed in a yoga practice. The Sanskrit word may be translated to mean “one who is victorious.” Ujjayi breath may also be referred to as “victorious breath,” “cobra breath” or “ocean breath” because of the sound the yogi emits during the practice of this breath.
In ujjayi breathing, both inhalation and exhalation are through the nose. The breath fills the lower belly first, then the lower rib cage, the upper chest and throat. The opening between the vocal cords is narrowed, creating a rushing or hissing sound. This audible breathing has been likened to ocean waves, breathing through scuba gear, or Darth Vader’s famous inhalations/exhalations.
Yogapedia explains Ujjayi
This form of pranayama is usually first practiced in an easy seated position and, when mastered, can be performed during more challenging asanas. During asana flow, ujjayi breathing can lend rhythm to the transition between poses, creating a meditative state and helping the yogi stay focused and present in the practice. It also encourages the free flow of prana.
However, 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.
Finally, ujjayi breathing quiets the brain, increases oxygenation and slows the flow of breathing. It regulates the body's internal heat, helps control blood pressure and releases tension. It also strengthens the digestive and nervous systems.