Ujjayi Pranayama, Good Memory & better Breath Awareness

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

“Uj” stands for up or progressing upward.

“jay” is victory, Ujjai is to conquer,

thus the term ujjayi means progressing

upwards by conquering,

or being victorious over the obstacles

to this progress; bondage.

Ujjayi pranayama is also named so,

as while doing it the chest is trained to

have a fuller expansion sidewards

as well as upwards, duplicating the feel of victory. The quality of thoughts in one’s mind has direct control over the quality of inhalation through their control over the degree of expansion of the chest while breathing.  The crunching grip of the heavy, negative, and sinking thoughts is clearly visible in a crunched up, restricted expansion of the chest.  This is also true because the lungs are the only center of the grosser activities of prana of which the thoughts – comprising the mind – are made of. Ujjayi pranayama benefits by  inducing positive thoughts and elevating the quality of a normal breath. As the mind is rid of negativity any bondages keeping it tied down are broken off, now the mind can progress upwards. Ujjayi makes the one aware of one’s own breath, one becomes sensitive to the movements of the lungs while breathing. Another name of Ujjayi is psychic breath as it leads to softer states of the mind.

Preparatory Breathing exercises for Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama can be done in either of the three body positions: supine, sitting or standing. Here for the purpose of preparation, we will use the supine position.

Breathing Exercise stage 1 – Ujjayi Pranayama

  • Lie down on the Yoga mat in savasana position, the body must be kept in a straight line, close the eyes and as the body relaxes spread the rib cage out and up
  • Relax the muscles of the face, the mind begins to go inwards, breath normally, do not try to control the breath, let the lungs expand and constrict naturally on their own, just observe this movement and try to feel the breath 
  • Feel the  air filling equally in both the lungs, feel the expansion of the lungs in all directions, release the diaphragm evenly from all sides while exhaling, the exhalation should be free of any mental push for expelling the air out, Flow with eh breath and keep it slow, smooth and continuous, without any jerks
  • Do not be conscious of time, let the breath find its own length, channel, and space
  • The body, breath and the mind need to be settled properly before beginning this breathing exercise for Ujjayi pranayama, as all these three factors if not settled can easily disturb each other, the body must feel the breath, the mind must be arrested of any thoughts and  memories
  • The exhalation should be slow and peaceful,  be aware and sensitive to the breathing process taking place within the body,  be a passive witness to the speed, contraction-expansion, and flow of the breath, the lungs become soft  due to the slow and smooth breathing, this renders the mind soft, expunging any rigidity stuck therein
  • Practice this stage for 8 – 10 minutes

Breathing Exercise stage 2 – Ujjayi Pranayama

In the second stage, the exhalation is made deeper, longer than inhalation, keeping them soft and smooth.

  • Lie down as in stage 1
  • Keeping the eyes closed, passive and receptive lift the chest, keep the mind focused inwards, relax the muscles of the face and the inner ears are kept passive, imagine the ears are being sucked into the throat
  • Take a normal inhalation, exhale smoothly, and deeply, longer in duration than the inhalation, till the entire air within the lungs is expelled out, this will have a soothing impact on the nerves
  • Repeat this 8 – 10 times before getting into savasana

Breathing Exercise stage 3 – Ujjayi Pranayama

At stage three the inhalation is smooth and soft but longer than the exhalation

  • Lie down on the yoga mat as in Stage 1 
  • Lift the rib cage, close the eyes, keep the facial muscles relaxed and the inner ears receptive and drawn towards the throat
  • inhaling deep and longer by expanding the chest and spreading the diaphragm outwards, this will be possible by broadening the mind, the inhalation must not bloat the abdomen, there should be a downward arch from the edge of the last ribs to the abdomen
  • Do not use the diaphragm, contract, while releasing the breath
  • Repeat this 8- 10 time before relaxing again

How to do Ujjayi Pranayama – The Technique

In the final stage of Ujjayi pranayama, both the inhalation and exhalation are extended equally by keeping the subtle details of the expansion of the chest and the movement of the diaphragm in mind. The mind must be thoroughly kept on the movements of the body and the breath

  • Lie down in savasana, or sit in any meditative posture with the spine kept vertically erect
  • Practice stage 1 for a while by observing the movements and the speed of the breath, relax the body and be aware of the breath at the nostrils
  • Now shift the awareness to the throat, imagine a small hole in the center of the throat and  feel the breath being taken in from hole and not the nostrils
  • Contract the glottis lightly producing a soft snoring sound, only audible to the practitioner is produced, the slight contraction of the abdomen must happen on its own
  • Take a short exhalation by dropping the abdomen towards the spine, begin to inhale from the sides of the belly button, move the abdomen towards the spine, expand the lower free ribs of the rib cage so that the muscles around the periphery of the diaphragm can be taken control of
  • The chest must expand up from the lower edge to the upper limit, and from the center to the sides simultaneously, Keep the chest firm by lifting it away from the diaphragm, the mind is kept steady and alert
  • Exhale  slowly by keeping the diaphragm and the rib cage expanded, these must relax  slowly and gradually, Both the inhalation and exhalation must be extended to a comfortable time duration – Matra – without straining the associated muscles
  • Complete 8 – 10 rounds  of Ujjayi pranayama in a single sitting, do follow the guidelines for doing pranayama the right way while doin Ujjayi
Ujjayi Pranayama

Precautions and Observations

  • The contraction of the throat at the glottis must be very light and subtle
  • The glottis must be kept contracted slightly throughout the practice
  • Concentration must be on the sound being produced within the throat
  • The breathing should be relaxed and controlled without using any force on it
  • Be constantly aware of the beginning of the inhalation, how the inhalation proceeds, exhalation and how  the breath end
  • Throughout Ujjayi pranayama, a breathing must only be from the nostrils and not from the mouth
  • Some schools of thought recommend inhalation through both the nostrils but inhalation only through the left nostril
  • If doing Ujjayi in a sitting position the neck, spine and the head must be held erect
  • Feeling of a little warmth at the back of the throat is considered normal while practicing Ujjayi
  • Discontinue the practice in the event of experiencing dizziness
  • The inhalation and exhalation are of equal duration
  • Avoid constricting the facial muscles while practicing Ujjayi


  • Individuals who are introverts personality wise must avoid doing Ujjayi pranayama
  • Patients of cardiac issues must not do Ujjayi with retention of breath
  • In case suffering from a slipped disc or vertebral spondylitis practice Ujjayi pranayama in makarasana or Vajrasana

Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits and Advantages 

  • Ujjayi pranayama prolongs the duration of  each breath by slowing it down, this decreases the per minute rate of breath adding years to life
  • It clears the channels of the flow of the prana ( Nadis) just like Anulom viloma pranayama does 
  • It helps boost the memory and improves focus, awareness, and clarity of the mind, Ujjayi absolutely qualifies for inclusion in  the yoga for good memory
  • It has a rejuvenating influence on the nervous system
  • The complexion of the skin gets a boost by practicing Ujayyi pranayama
  • Ujjayi relaxes and calms the mind along with promoting sound sleep, it always forms a part of the yoga for the peace of mind
  • It strengthens the digestive system, relieves headache and clears the sinuses of any obstructions
  • It cures edema ( fluid retention) 
  • It relieves one of any cold, cough, or fever
  • Ujjayi pranayama benefits the condition of dysentery and any issues of the liver
  • It is good for the health of the thyroid and related mechanisms, Any program on yoga for a healthy Thyroid gland is incomplete without Ujjayi
  • The quality of the voice is rendered sweet by the regular practice of Ujjayi  pranayama
  • It pumps up the blood circulation and the general metabolism in the body
  • Ujjayi detoxifies the body and provides relief from daily stress
  • As per Ayurveda, it purifies all the seven dhatus or elements ( flesh, fat, skin, semen, marrow, blood, bone)  of the body
  • This pranayama is best for treating asthma, acidity, and fatigue
  • It is also good for treating cardiac issues and hypertension, a study on how this pranayama impacts the heart rate substantiates the claim
  • Ujjayi pranayama clears the throat of any phlegm
  • In Ujjayi, prana, and apana come together at the point of mooldhara chakra which can help awaken the kundalini believed to be placed near it

Ujjayi Pranayama Variations and Modifications

Ujjayi pranayama with Khechari Mudra:

Fold the tongue into Khechari mudra ( roll the tongue back and place its the lower surface against the palate) while doing Ujjayi pranayama. In case, after some time the tongue feels tired, place it back to normal position, and continue to do Uyyaji pranayama. After it is rested place it again in Khechari mudra and continue for at least 3 -5 minutes in a single go.

The meaning of the word khechari is ” one who moves through space”.

Benefits of practicing Ujjayi with Khechari mudra

  • Practicing Ujjayi with Khechari mudra rejuvenates the body at the cellular level due to its positive impact on the endocrine system, this increases the life span of the practitioner 
  • It activates stimulates the Ajana chakra to release the special nector which is in turn purified by the Vishidhi Chakra on which it is believed to fall, this rejuvenates the entire body 
  • It cleanses one of all guilt, fears, diseases, and ignorance in case present
  • It illuminates the consciousness

Ujjayi pranayama with Kumbhaka:

Practice Ujjayi with Khechari mudra by inhaling deep and smooth. Hold the breath ( Kumbhaka)in as long as comfortable by keeping the attention on the Ajna chakra. Release Kumbhaka with a smooth and long exhalation.

Beginners can hold the breath internally for a second or two, and increase this time gradually as the capacity increases with practice. Practicing Ujjayi with Kumbhaka helps to develop introversion and concentration of the mind.

Ujjayi Pranayama with Jalandhara and Mool Bandhas:

  • Inhale with Ujjayi and hold the breath up till comfortable, lower the chin and touch it to the chest throughout the retention of the breath ( Jalandhara Bandha), while releasing first release the jalandhara bandha and then exhale with Ujjayi. 
  • Again inhale with Ujjayi and retain the breath in kumbhak, first practice jalandhara bandha and then moola bandha ( squeeze the area around the mooldhara chakra – between anus and perineum region) till comfortable without strain, first release moola bandha and then the jalandhara bandha, before exhaling in Ujjayi
  • Individuals with low blood pressure and heart disease must not practice Ujjayi with bandhas
  •  It tranquilizes the mind and the nervous system
  • It stimulates metabolism within the body
  • It  cures insomnia if practiced without khechari mudra, but with jalandhara and moola bandhas while in  savasana before going to bed
  • It lowers down the blood pressure and the heart rate 

Ujjayi Pranayama by engaging the frontal psychic passage

  • While doing Ujjayi with khechari mudra visualize a silver transparent  tube, along with the anterior of the body, connecting the navel to the throat, while inhaling imagine the breath is moving through this tube from the navel to the throat, while exhaling imagine the breath moving from the throat down to the navel region via the same imaginary tube
  • Repeat the mantra “So” in the mind while inhaling and “Ham” while exhaling for enhancing the benefits of this variation of Ujjayi pranayama
  • Practice for a minimum of  5- 10 minutes 
  • This variation of Ujjayi pranayama can also be practiced by visualizing the imaginary transparent silver tube along the spinal, from the mooldhara chakra to the ajna chakra, with the conscious moving from mooldhara to ajna while inhaling and in the reverse direction while exhaling, all the other consideration are kept the same.