How To Do Ujjayi Correctly

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U…jai…what?!  Is what I thought when I first started practicing yoga and would hear the teacher ask the class to find their Ujjayi breath.  It took years before I was able to do Ujjayi correctly too!  This is something many newer students struggle with.  So I’m here to save you a lot of confusion and out-of-breath yoga sessions by telling you the secret of how to do Ujjayi correctly.  With proper guidance and practice, you will have your Ujjayi breath down in no time.  But first, what the heck is Ujjayi?

Ujjayi is Sanskrit for Victorious Breath.  It is the most common form of Pranayama you will do in yoga.  Consisting of slow deep breaths in and out of your nose, when performed correctly, Ujjayi makes a whisper sound that comes from the back of the throat.  This creates a calming effect, which relieves stress and helps you to stay present and centered.  It is safe to practice anytime during yoga, meditation, driving, walking, running, whenever.  The deep inhales and exhales of Ujjayi also help support the spine, which will ultimately help prevent injury.  This type of breathing even increases endurance by keeping you from getting winded so quickly.  Sounds pretty victorious, huh?

So here’s how to do Ujjayi correctly:

  1. Find a comfortable position – seated, standing, or lying on your back.
  2. Take one deep breath in through your nose, and let everything go out of mouth.
  3. With your lips together and teeth slightly apart, begin to take slow, steady, deep inhales and exhales in and out of your nose.
  4. Relax.  Relax all the muscles in your face, especially your jaw, and relax your shoulders away from your ears.  Keep letting go of any tension you’re holding onto with each exhalation – whether it be physical, mental, or emotional.
  5. Create a steady whisper sound in the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale.  Note, this sound comes from the back of the throat and NOT your nostrils.  If you’re hearing the whisper in your nostrils, deepen your breath and take it more to the back of the throat.  To achieve this, imagine you are trying to fog glass with your breath – but with your mouth closed.  My yoga teacher, Nicki Doane, says it best “Imagine drinking from a straw.  Your nostrils would be the straw, and the back of the throat is your mouth.  So the back of your throat is doing all the work.”
  6. Once you are able to consistently make the steady whisper sound in the back of the throat, take at least 10 slow, deep Ujjayi breaths.  Make your inhales and exhales at least 5 counts each, and enjoy the benefits of this victorious breathing.

That’s it!  The secret to correct Ujjayi breathing is all in the back of your throat.  If you didn’t get it the first time, you will!  Just keep practicing and you will be a pro in no time 🙂  Enjoy!