What is Ujjayi Breathing?

The breathing method used in Asthanga Vinyasa yoga and in many other yogic traditions is called
Ujjayi breathing.

Ujjayi breath means “victorious breath”, pointing out its powerful quality to help the practitioner
master a meditative state where he won over the dominance of his automatic, racing mind.
Without proper breathing yoga becomes nothing more than an outward expression of physical
movement. Whilst the asana (posture) practice grounds the yoga practitioner physically, Ujjayi
breathing allows him to move into a calm state entering the subtle wonders of his inner world.
The synchronization of breath and movement brings about a meditative flow.

Ujjayi breathing is characterized by an audibly hollow, deep, soft sound coming from your throat.
It has been described as wind in the trees, a distant ocean, a cobra snake or, for the less poetic,
Darth Vader from “Star Wars”. It is a diaphragmatic breathing technique, which first fills the
lower belly, rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves into the upper chest and the throat.
Ujjay breath is performed by creating a soft, hissing sound in the back of the throat while
inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Inhale and exhale are the same length.

Learning Ujjayi Breathing

1. Start by making your inhale and exhale deep and same length
2. Count slowly 1-2-3-4-5 on the inhale and on the exhale
Start learning the exhale:
3. Open your mouth and say “Hhhhaaammmm” at the exhale as though you are whispering
4. Repeat a few times, feeling the vibration and swirl of air in the back of your throat
5. Move on making the sound “Hhhhaaammmm” keeping your mouth closed on the exhale
6. Then try “Hhhhhaaaammmm”-ing without the sound
7. You want to create a deep breath at the top of your throat behind your nostrils, not at the tip
of your nose
8. Technically you need to control your glottis
Learn the inhale:
9. Continue with your Ujjayi breathing on the exhale
10. On the inhale gently smile and try to create the same deep swirling sound

The main idea is to create a rhythm in your breath that will allow you to get into a meditative
flow in your practice. In addition, your breath will tell you if you apply too much effort. When
you notice your breath is forced, constricted or withheld you have gone beyond your limit. If you
find yourself heavily involved in thoughts you might have forgotten to breath thoroughly.

Benefits in the practice and in your life

• Oxygenates the body and muscles
• Heats up the muscles, makes the tissue moist, prepares for stretching
• Allows you to control your energy levels to maintain the practice
• Feels balancing and calming, helps to detach from the racing thinking mind
• Creates a rhythm in the practice
• Helps to clear toxins out of the bodily systems
• Promotes awareness and grounded-ness