Ujjayi Pranayama

Modern Ayurveda

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The prefix ud attached to verbs and nouns, means upwards or superiority in rank. It also means blowing or expanding. It conveys the sense of pre-eminence and power.

Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph or success. Looked at from another viewpoint it implies restraint or curbing.

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


1. Sit in any comfortable position like Padmasana (Plate 53), Siddhasana (Plate 38) or VIrasana (Plate 43).

2. Keep the back erect and rigid. Lower the head to the trunk. Rest the chin in the notch between the collar-bones just above the breast-bone. (This is the Jalandhara Bandha. Jala means a net, web, lattice or a mesh.)

3. Stretch the arms out straight and rest the back of the wrists on the knees. Join the tips of the index fingers to the tips of the thumbs, keeping the other fingers extended. (This position or gesture of the hand is known as the Jnana Mudra, the symbol or seal of knowledge. The index finger symbolizes the individual soul and the thumb the Universal Soul. The union of the two symbolizes knowledge.)

4. Close the eyes and look inwards. (Plate 147)

5. Exhale completely.

6. Now the Ujjayi method of breathing begins.

7. Take a slow, deep steady breath through both nostrils. The passage of the incoming air is felt on the ro'of of the palate and makes a sibilant sound (sa). This sound should be heard.

8. Fill the lungs up to the brim. Care should be taken not to bloat the abdomen in the process of inhalation. (Observe this in all types of Pranayama.) This filling up is called puraka (inhalation).

9. The entire abdominal area from the pubes up to the breast-bone should be pulled back towards the spine.

10. Hold the breath for a second or two.

11. Exhale slowly, deeply and steadily, until the lungs are completely empty. As you begin to exhale, keep your grip on the abdomen. After two or three seconds of exhalation, relax the diaphragm gradually and slowly. While exhaling the passage of the outgoing air should be felt on the roof of the palate. The brushing of the air on the palate should make an aspirate sound (ha). This exhalation is called rechaka.

12. Wait for a second before drawing a fresh breath. This waiting period is called bahya kumbhaka.

13. The process described from para. 7 to para. 12 completes one cycle of Ujjayi Pranayama.

14. Repeat the cycles for five to ten minutes keeping the eyes closed throughout.

15. Lie on the floor for Savasana (Plate 146)

16. Ujjayi Pranayama may be done without the Jalandhara Bandha even while walking or lying down. This is the only pranayama which can be done at all times of the day and night.


This type of pranayama aerates the lungs, removes phlegm, gives endurance, soothes the nerves and tones the entire system. Ujjayi without kumbhaka, done in a reclining position, is ideal for persons suffering from high blood pressure or coronary troubles.

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