Annie on ujjāyī prāṅayāma:

Pranayama is the intentional practice of breath control. We speak to it regularly in asana practice, calling for ujjāyī – controlled breath in and out through the nose. Within the five pillars of Baptiste yoga, ujjāyī is second, after Drishti, as we build a yoga practice, one pillar at a time.  First, I set my gaze. Then, I create my breath. This focus, this concentration, Dhāranā, leads me to the edge of meditation, Dhyāna.

There are straight forward instructions for breathing ujjāyī. Simple but they can still feel awkward just because it is new. If you struggle with it during practice, begin at home while sitting still. It is easier to change a breath pattern while not trying to point all your fingers and toes the correct directions simultaneously. It will help build the muscles of the breath and create familiarity with the feeling and the sound. In this familiarity comes the calm, so don’t worry too much if you don’t get it right away. Start where you are.

ujjāyī can be practiced sitting or standing:

With your head lifted high, draw breath in through your nose, creating a constriction in the back of the throat to make a sound like wind, or waves. Focus intently on the exhaled breath.

*not sure how the “constriction” should feel? Place your index finger gently at the dip in your throat above and between where your collar bones meet. Feel the breath move past them as you gently press in. Keep the partial closure of the throat when you pull your fingers away by lifting or “locking” the throat behind that touch point.


Sanskrit is an Indo-European language that dates back thousands of years. Sanskrit, no longer used colloquially, is an intricately designed language system that has remained intact over time. The same Sanskrit that we learn today can unlock wisdom from antiquity.

This week we are exploring ujjāyī prāṅayāma. 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.

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

From Light On Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar