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Ujjayi Pranayama or Victorious Breath

by Marianne Navada

Ujjayi breath is deep, audible, and conscious breathing. Also known as the victorious breath, ujjayi develops internal heat, provides rhythm and helps us focus while performing yoga asanas, and gets us deeper into yoga poses.



( ud: a prefix, meaning superior or expanding | jaya: conquest, victory, triumph or success; can also mean restraint )


( prana: energy | yama: control )

In a yoga class, it’s a good idea to use the first asana to activate the ujjayi breath. This can be sitting comfortably on the mat, child’s pose, equal standing pose, even corpose pose.

Tips and Cues

Seal the lips and start breathing in and out slowly through the nose. Slightly constrict the back of the throat while performing ujjayi breathing to feel and hear the air pass through the back of the throat and nasal cavity. The breath usually sounds like an ocean wave (oceanic breathing) or sometimes referred to as Darth Vader sound.

Ujjayi Breath

Feel the breath originate from the lower belly, up the rib cage, rising up to the chest, and then the throat, all the way to the crown of the head. It helps to visualize the diaphragm filling up with air and then completely emptying it out, making use of the diaphragm’s full range of motion.

While performing ujjayi breath, equalize the inhales and exhales. There is no rush. The goal is to breathe as deeply as you can with ultimate control.

Ujjayi pranayama is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puff out like that of a proud conqueror. 

Iyengar | Light on Yoga

Aside from helping us focus and deepen into a pose, ujjayi also allows for oxygenated air to fully engulf the lungs. Increased oxygen in the bloodstream lowers heart rate, stabilizes blood pressure, and relieves anxiety.

Activation tip: First breathe through the nose and open the mouse for a strong exhale. For the next breath, keep that same force on the exhale, but this time, seal the lips, relax the tongue, and empty out all the way to the lower abs. Feel the belly hollow out.

Breathe fresh air in, and exhale all the stale air out.

Ujjayi breathing is not limited to practicing yoga. You can activate your ujjayi breath anytime you want to feel a sense of calm, relieve anxiety, and just feel energized.

On lengthening the breath: Each inhale and exhale will last for 6 counts. Visualize your diaphragm divided into three parts:

One, two, fill up 1/3 of the way, three, four, fill up 2/3, and five, six and slowly exhale one two, three, four, five, six.

Commit to living.