Ujjayi Pranayama in Asana practice

Inhale and exhale are part of the standard practice element for yoga. I had always followed the instructors when they told us to breathe without understanding why do we inhale and exhale at those precise timings. 

Why is breath vital in yoga?

In yoga, breath is equally important — sometimes even more important — as the physical pose. Apart from improving focus, proper breathing would help you reach better posture alignments and prevent you from injury. 

Deep breaths allow your body to exchange incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide. They also can help with slowing the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure and lower stress.

What is Ujjayi Pranayama? 

Ujjayi = one who is victorious

Pranayama = the practice of breath regulation

There are many different breathing control methods, and Ujjayi is the most common form of pranayama used during asana practices. It creates an ocean wave sound during exhale.

Benefits

  • Quiets the brain
  • Claim your mind
  • Slows and smooths the flow of breath
  • Improved concentration
  • Tension release
  • Regulated body temperature

Contraindications and Cautions

  1. Be careful not to tighten your throat

Ujjayi Pranayama is also referred to as

  • Victorious breath
  • Ocean breathing
  • Snake breathing
  • Whispering breathing
  • Snoring breathing

How to do Ujjayi Ranayama?

Both inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose. 

As you inhale and exhale:

  • Keep your mouth closed.
  • Constrict your throat to the point that your breathing makes a rushing noise, almost like snoring or ocean wave. 
  • Control your breath with your diaphragm.
  • Keep your inhalations and exhalations equal in duration.

At first, it may feel like you’re not getting enough air, but the technique should become easier with practice.

How to apply Ujjayi Pranayama during Asana practice?

  1. Inhale when opening the front of the body
  2. Exhale while compressing the front of the body
  3. If the breath is suspended after inhalation, don’t move
  4. Only move during breath suspension if it’s following an exhalation
  5. Breathe deeply and effortlessly

How I feel after applying Ujjayi Pranayama during Surya Namaskar practice? 

I’ve always got confused about when to inhale and exhale during the Sun salutation flow. Especially on the part of breath-holding, front leg back into a Santolasana (plank pose). After integrating Ujjayi Pranayama into my practice, I’ve become more aware of my breathing and understands when I should inhale and exhale. 

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