Ujjayi Breathing: Origins, Benefits, and How to Practice It

The quality of our breath reflects the quality of our mind, and vice versa. We use techniques like ujjayi breathing because by stabilizing the breath, we stabilize the mind. Explore the roots and benefits of ujjayi pranayama and how to practice it.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
Ujjayi Breathing ocean breath pranayama
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

Ujjayi pranayama is a staple of many yoga traditions. This ancient breathing technique, known for its soothing, ocean-like sound, can help with breath regulation and control, leaving you feeling more energized and stable. 

Looking to dive deeper into ujjayi breathing? Our guide will help you integrate ujjayi pranayama into your yoga practice

Additionally, Insight Timer, as a trusted guide in mindfulness and meditation, connects you with seasoned experts and a global community of practitioners to support you with an array of guided sessions and teachings for your ujjayi practice.

Key takeaways:

  • Ujjayi pranayama is a breathing technique that produces an ocean-like sound and can be applied across different yoga styles to help stabilize the breath and mind.
  • The benefits of ujjayi breath are broad and include improving mental focus, reducing stress, and fostering a deep sense of inner calm and connection.
  • Ujjayi breathing requires gradual practice, but with time, it can be an enriching addition to your daily routine that promotes overall well-being.

Learn how to enhance your breathing in our beginner’s guide on how to breathe in yoga.

What is Ujjayi pranayama?

Ujjayi pranayama is a breathing practice characterized by nostril breathing, rooted in ancient yogic philosophy and Sanskrit texts. Ujjayi translates to “victorious breath” or “breath of the conqueror,” while pranayama can be understood as “expansion of our life force” or “breath retention.” Pranayama is also the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga and an integral part of the yogic path.

The evolution and philosophy of ujjayi pranayama

The ancient origins of pranayama are traced back to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, where it’s explicitly mentioned that pranayama carries us home to samadhi — a full integration of the yogic practice. But the exact origins of ujjayi pranayama aren’t as clear. 

Although we don’t know precisely how ujjayi has evolved over time, we do know that ujjayi breathing has been popularized in the West as the preferred pranayama, especially in the Ashtanga and Vinyasa traditions. This could have something to do with ujjayi’s meditative quality and ability to stabilize the mind. 

Dive into the warming experience of ujjayi breathing with this free Insight Timer playlist:

  1. The Practice & Benefits Of Ujjayi Breath Freya Bennett-Overstall 5:40
  2. Ujjayi Pranayama Tutorial Yogi Bryan 3:31
  3. Ujjayi Breath To Relieve Anxiety & Stress Suzanne Wooder 10:09
  4. Ocean Meditation Maria Baltazzi 12:02
  5. Ujayii (Ocean Breath) Jaime Coffey 9:28
  6. Victorious Breath - Ujjayi Pranayama Veda Spidle 3:47
  7. Ujjai Breathing Dana Abou Zeki 6:11
  8. Practicing Breathing For Healing: A Gentle Introduction To Ujjayi Prananyama Radha Brave 6:33
  9. You Are Indomitable Hannah Leatherbury 17:00

How to use ujjayi breath in your yoga practice

Before incorporating ujjayi breath into your regular yoga practice, it’s important to master the basics, including learning to breathe deeply through the nose with a gentle throat constriction. 

For beginners and seasoned yogis alike, here’s a step-by-step on how to perform ujjayi breath across different yoga styles.

1. Begin with awareness

Start in a comfortable seated position, preferably with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Observe your natural breath without trying to change it. Notice the flow of air through your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest and belly.

2. Practice nostril breathing 

Gradually introduce ujjayi breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale slowly through your nose. Once that feels comfortable, practice a slight constriction at the back of your throat to create a soft hissing sound on the exhale. The resulting sound should be similar to that of an ocean wave. When you’re ready, add throat constriction to the inhale, too. Repeat this up to10 times. 

3. Incorporate ujjayi into asanas

Once you feel comfortable with the breathing, begin to integrate it into your yoga poses and postures. Start with simpler, static poses to get comfortable maintaining the breath, then gradually use it in more dynamic sequences.

4. Apply across styles

Explore using ujjayi in different yoga styles. In Vinyasa or Ashtanga, you can use it to strengthen the flow between movements and poses. In Hatha, ujjayi breathing can help you stay focused and grounded as you slowly move through poses.

To explore further, Insight Timer offers guided sessions that can serve as a practical introduction ujjayi pranayama, a transformational breathing technique.

ujjayi woman outside in nature

The science behind ujjayi pranayama

There have been several studies on the physical and emotional impacts of ujjayi breathing. Each has illuminated the wellness benefits for ujjayi practitioners, particularly on the nervous and cardiovascular systems. 

A 2013 study on the cardiovascular effects of ujjayi breathing found that slow and steady nostril breathing has the following benefits:

  • Improved oxygen saturation 
  • Reduced anxiety, even in novice yogis

Respiratory function also receives a boon from regular ujjayi practice. By enhancing the efficiency of each breath, ujjayi can improve overall lung capacity and stamina. Additionally, a 2012 study out of India confirms that by stimulating the vagus nerve, ujjayi breathing suppresses sympathetic nervous system activity and turns off our physical response to stress. 

These scientific insights not only validate the holistic benefits of ujjayi pranayama but also invite us to integrate this practice into our daily routine as a tangible tool to improve health and well-being.

The benefits of ujjayi breath 

When practiced properly, ujjayi breathing has great benefits. As mentioned above, the most notable impacts can be seen on an individual’s nervous system, respiratory function, and cardiovascular system. 

Ujjayi breathing also serves as a way to connect with your prana (life force) and practice mindfulness more consistently. By focusing on the breath and bringing awareness to the present moment, you can reap the physiological and mental benefits of mindfulness, including: 

  • increased emotional regulation
  • reduced stress
  • improved memory and concentration 

The best part? You don’t need to attend a Vinyasa flow class to reap the benefits of ujjayi pranayama. Nostril breathing and throat constriction can be incorporated into your daily meditations or used to self-regulate at any time. 

Discover Insight Timer’s large free library of guided breathing meditation practices that teach you how to use your breath to focus your awareness on the present.

Precautions for ujjayi breathing

While ujjayi pranayama can absolutely enhance your overall well-being, it’s vital to approach any breathwork or yoga practice with care. If you face specific health challenges, like respiratory conditions (e.g., lung problems, asthma, sinus issues, etc.), it’s best to consult with a doctor before practicing ujjayi breathing. 

It’s not uncommon to feel faint or dizzy when engaging in breathing exercises, especially when practicing on an empty stomach. If this happens, stop the practice and be sure to hydrate with plenty of fluids. 

For those finding it difficult to mimic the ocean-like sound of ujjayi, start with simpler breath exercises to build comfort with nostril breathing. Remember, ujjayi breathing is meant to be gentle and relaxing, so if you’re straining or forcing the breath, you may need to start over and re-evaluate.

ujjayi group yoga session

Take your practice to new heights with ujjayi pranayama

Embracing ujjayi breathing can help you deepen your yoga experience by stabilizing the breath, body, and mind. Once you master the basics of nostril breathing, you can incorporate ujjayi into your daily meditation routine or as an active part of your yoga practice. And you’ll enjoy benefits like a more balanced mood, lower stress response, and enhanced lung capacity. 

Looking to incorporate different pranayama from the yoga tradition? Explore Insight Timer’s rich selection of pranayama courses and meditations to modulate the breath and pacify the nervous system.


Explore guided pranayama practices in our free library.

Ujjayi breathing FAQs

What is the difference between ujjayi breathing and normal breathing?

Unlike normal breathing or taking deep breaths, Ujjayi breathing is done through the nostrils and involves a constriction of the throat, creating a sound reminiscent of the ocean. Ujjayi breathing is used to create stability in the body and mind.

What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?

The 4-7-8 technique is a breathing pattern that involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds, promoting relaxation.

What are the benefits and risks of alternate nostril breathing?

Alternate nostril breathing can enhance respiratory functions and balance the nervous system, but it should be avoided if you have a cold or nasal blockage.

How many minutes should you practice ujjayi pranayama?

Beginners should start with a few minutes, gradually increasing the time as they become more comfortable with the technique.

How does ujjayi breathing affect the mind and body during yoga practice?

Ujjayi breathing helps synchronize the breath with movement, induces calm, and helps focus the mind. It’s known for having positive impacts on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

What is the power of ujjayi breath? 

The power of ujjayi breath lies in its ability to calm the mind, enhance focus, regulate the nervous system, and support physical and spiritual well-being. 

Should I expect to use ujjayi breath in a yoga class?

Whether you’re in a Hatha yoga or Vinyasa yoga class, your yoga teacher will likely emphasize the importance of yogic breathing. Ujjayi breath is just one of the forms of pranayama that may be used in a yoga class or asana practice.



Mason, H., Vandoni, M., deBarbieri, G., Codrons, E., Ugargol, V., & Bernardi, L. (2013). Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effect of Yogic Slow Breathing in the Yoga Beginner: What Is the Best Approach? Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/743504

JCDR – Ujjayi pranayama, Shavasana, Cardiovascular Parameters, Rate pressure product. (n.d.). Www.jcdr.net. https://www.jcdr.net/article_fulltext.asp?id=2140

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