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Ujjayi Pranayama: Benefits and Contraindications

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Ujjayi Pranayama, commonly known as the breath of victory, is a popular pranayama in the yogic tradition. Read the article for more information.

Written by

Dr. Saranya. P

Medically reviewed by

Shakti Mishra

Published At November 20, 2023
Reviewed AtNovember 20, 2023


Ujjayi Pranayama is a modified yoga breathing type that helps return to natural breathing patterns. It is employed in yoga to relax the mind, lessen anxiety, increase concentration, and control body temperature. Ujjayi entails softly constricting or restricting the throat while breathing through the nostrils. Doing so produces a subtle hissing sound during both inhalation and exhalation. The rhythmic ocean sound, a metronome for activity and awareness, grounds the mind. This ocean breath encourages full diaphragmatic engagement and activates the nervous system's reaction to relaxation and sleep. Individuals can practice it at any time and from any location. It can be carried out while standing, lying down (supine or prone), or sitting upright in a supportive chair.

What Is the Meaning of Ujjayi Pranayama?

Ujjayi combines two Sanskrit words: ud (upwards) + jaya (victory or success). As a result, Ujjayi Pranayama is also known as the breath of victory or to lift upwards (lifting the chest and prana to the mind while breathing). Ocean breath, victorious breath, conqueror's breath, and cobra breath are additional names for Ujjayi Pranayama. The term ocean breath describes the wavelike sound created during breathing. The term victorious, or conqueror's breath, refers to the chest expanding during Ujjayi, evoking the attitude of a successful conqueror.

How to Perform Ujjayi Pranayama?

Follow the below-mentioned steps to practice Ujjayi Pranayama:

1. Spend a few minutes breathing evenly and rhythmically while seated in a meditative position. Cut off outside distractions and bring the mind in harmony with the breath.

2. Draw attention to the throat and slightly close it, Nadi (the glottis). The glottis is a region of the throat that contains the opening between the vocal cords.

3. Gently squeeze the throat before inhaling. Contraction should not produce strain. Beginners frequently tighten their facial muscles by tightening their throat muscles.

4. While inhaling, the abdomen tightens, and the chest elevates. Inhalation should produce a sound that falls somewhere between a gentle snoring and a hiss.

5. Individuals should hold their breath (Antara kumbhaka) as long as it feels comfortable once the lungs are full.

6. Individuals should initially hold their breath for two seconds before gradually lengthening it. While breathing, bring consciousness to the third-eye center (Ajna).

7. Three groups should avoid breath retention: a) beginners learning Ujjayi, b) those with health issues exacerbated by breath retention, and c) people who practice Ujjayi breathing for therapeutic or relaxing purposes.

8. Exhale evenly through both nostrils, making a single sound. The tummy or stomach should be the most relaxed and bloated it can be.

9. This completes one cycle of Ujjayi Pranayama.

10. Breathing should be gradual, smooth, extended (like in a three-part breath), and deep to fill the lungs fully. As an individual breathes in and out, their chest and abdomen will expand and contract.

When to Practice Ujjayi Pranayama?

Though morning and evening are the optimal times to practice Ujjayi Pranayama, it may be done at any time. However, individuals should not perform this pranayama on a full stomach because it involves abdominal movement.

It should be noted that people can perform Ujjayi in various positions, including seated poses on a yoga chair, Vajrasana, mountain pose, and Shavasana. Spondylitis cases will benefit from ujjayi in Vajrasana, and sleep difficulties will be resolved by ujjayi in Shavasana. Ujjayi pranayama can be a go-to remedy in a few different situations, such as:

  • As a warm-up practice before meditation to help individuals focus and concentrate.

  • To soothe the nerves when feeling uncomfortable, restless, nervous, or stressed.

  • As a warm-up activity to improve mind-body coordination before engaging in hatha yoga asana.

What Are the Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama?

This breathing practice has a lot of health benefits for the body. Here are a few of the most significant ones.

  1. Good for Thyroid Regulation: This pranayama is particularly effective at boosting and balancing hormone secretion in persons with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, and hyperthyroidism, which refers to an overactive thyroid. One of the best breathing exercises for thyroid issues is this one. Some specialists believe that doing this pranayama regularly also has the impact of healing thyroid conditions.
  2. Helpful in Cases of Edema or Dropsy: In these conditions, the body has the propensity to retain fluids. Regular practice of Ujjayi pranayama can help reverse the body's tendency to retain fluids.

  3. It is thought to be effective in treating headaches, colds, coughs, and sinus infections.

  4. It lessens the production of phlegm, which helps the body's digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems typically operate.

  5. Additionally, this pranayama increases physical endurance while enhancing mental focus.

  6. It energizes the body's nerves, or nadis, which improves a person's mental acuity.

  7. The friction felt in the throat during the inhaling process aids in producing body heat, which feels like an internal organ massage.

  8. This is beneficial for chakra and kundalini energy awakening. It aids in achieving a state of meditation.

  9. It relaxes the mind and brings serenity to it. It is, therefore, effective in treating insomnia.

  10. The Ujjayi pranayama benefits overall physical, mental, and spiritual health.

What Are the Contraindications of Ujjayi Pranayama?

Various precautions must be taken before beginning any pranayama, and it is better to conduct any breathing exercises for the first time under the supervision of a yoga teacher. Some of these contraindications are detailed below:

  • Limitations: Students should inform their yoga instructor if they have ever experienced heart problems, migraines, high blood pressure, or other illnesses. Before introducing their students to this breathing technique, yoga instructors should be aware of their students' physical circumstances and the background of those situations.

  • Women and Pregnant Women: Ujjayi Pranayama should not be practiced by pregnant women or going through menstruation since it places stress on the abdominal organs and alters body temperature, which may be unsafe.

  • Lack of Body-Breath Connections: If at any point during practice, a student feels unpleasant, dizzy, or unable to synchronize their breathing, they should immediately stop and resume normal breathing.

  • Trauma and Anxiety: This pranayama should not be performed if individuals are continually exhausted, anxious, or panicking since overexertion might harm the heart and lungs.

  • Others: Beginners should limit their daily practice of this breathing to five minutes. If having a solid backache or constipation, avoid practicing.

After Ujjayi Pranayama, stay away from doing challenging yoga poses. Before beginning a breathing exercise, performing a few reclining asanas is always advised to open up the diaphragm and the abdominal cavity.


Ujjayi, commonly called psychic breath, has incredibly calming mental effects. Along with increasing endurance and patience, ujjayi also improves focus. The way ujjayi works has also significantly impacted several therapies, such as those used to treat depression and insomnia. It promotes oxygenation and balances breathing. It generates internal heat that warms the core, making it easier and more effective to carry out physical exercises and yoga postures. The yogis had been practicing ujjayi breathing since the Vedic culture. People should incorporate this lovely self-care method into their everyday routine because it is a requirement of the modern world.

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Shakti Mishra
Shakti Mishra


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