Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word that means ‘victorious.’ Its root word is ‘ji’ which means ‘to conquer’ . The prefix ‘ud’ means ‘bondage.’ Therefore ‘ujjayi’ pranayama also means a pranayama that gives freedom from bondage.
Ujjayi pranayama is very effective in unlocking the subtle states of the mind. Therefore, it is also called as the psychic breath. This pranayama is often combined with other techniques like khechari mudra, jalandhara bhandha, and is also used in conjunction with various meditative practices like mantra japa, ajapa japa, and kriya yoga just to name a few.
Mention in Scriptures
The following verses 51-53 are from Hatha Pradipika, the classical/scriptural manuscript on Yoga. The method described here is an alternative way of doing this pranayama. This article will focus on the more commonly accepted form. But both are equally effective.
Translation: “Having closed the opening of the Nâdî (Larynx), the air should be drawn in such a way that it goes touching from the throat to the chest, and making noise while passing” .
Translation: “It should be restrained [kumbhaka], as before, and then let out through Idâ (the left nostril). This removes ślesmâ (phlegm) in the throat and increases the appetite” .
Translation: “It destroys the defects of the nâdîs, dropsy and disorders of Dhâtu (humours). Ujjâyî should be performed in all conditions of life, even while walking or sitting” .
Ujjayi Pranayama Procedure
- Sit in a comfortable meditation position. Your head and spine should be straight. Your hands should be placed on your knees either in chin or jnana mudra.
- Bring your attention to your natural breathing process and feel the air passing through your windpipe.
- Then, slightly contract the region at back of your throat, similar to how you do it when you swallow.
- Make sure that inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose and there is a partial contraction of the glottis which produces the slight snoring sound.
- The sound should be emitted from the throat and not from the nose.
- Inhalation and inhalation should be long and deep.
- One Inhalation and exhalation complete one round.
Practice for 5 minutes in the beginning. Slowly extend it to 10 to 15 minutes.
This pranayama can be performed in other positions as well apart from sitting, like standing or lying down. People facing slipped disc or vertebral spondylitis can practice ujjayi pranayama in in vajrasana or makarasana.
Time of Practice
Ujjayi Pranayama can be practiced at any time during the day. It is best to perform this pranayama on a light or an empty stomach.
Ujjayi Pranayama Precautions
- People of introverted personality type should avoid this pranayama as it makes the mind more inward looking.
- People with heart complications should avoid the advance stages of this practice. Also, they should perform the beginner stages under an expert’s guidance.
- Try not to contract your facial muscles as you do this pranayama.
- Don’t contract the throat too hard. The contraction should be gentle and applied continuously during the practice.
- Don’t practice if you are having a migraine.
Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits
- It helps in tranquilizing the body.
- It helps in reducing anxiety.
- It soothes the nervous system and calms the body.
- It helps in relieving insomnia.
- It helps in reliving fluid retention problems.
- The beginner method is useful in lowering the heart rate and reducing high blood pressure.
- It helps in improving cognition.
- It helps in increasing lung capacity.
- It helps in increasing exercise endurance.
- (All the verse translations in the article are by Pancham Sinh) Book: Hatha Yoga Pradipika Translated by Pancham Sinh.
- Book: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
- Book: The science Of Pranayama by Sri Sivananda.
- Book: Light on Pranayama by B.K.S Iyengar.