We spend a LOT of time talking about our breath during our hot yoga practice, and that’s for a good reason … it’s kind of important.
Breath is the foundation of our connection with our bodies, and influences our physical, mental and emotional state. In Yogic philosophy, breath is the connection between the body and mind and is the driving force behind our consciousness.
While breathing is an involuntary action, it’s also a voluntary one! Your brain will force you to breathe all the time but you have control over it to a large degree. By consciously working with your inhales and exhales, you can warm or cool your body, calm or energize your mind and more.
Here are some breathing exercises that you may encounter in your yoga practice. Keep in mind that you may not see these in every class, but to get the full benefits of yoga they’re great tools to keep in the back of your mind! Whether you’re practicing yoga for pain relief, to reduce anxiety or even just to get a good sweat on, keep reading.
This is the practice of awakening and directing vital energy through conscious breathing. Connects mind and body through the breath. Warms up your body, increases lung capacity, strengthens your respiratory system, slows down heart rate and reduces stress.
- Feet together, stand tall, interlace fingers under your chin.
- Inhale through your nose, mouth closed, eyes forward, head down, elbows up. Keep your spine straight, belly in.
- Exhale through your mouth, head back, eyes open, elbows forward and together. Wrists straight.
- When you inhale shape your throat as if you’re saying ‘SO’, when you exhale shape your throat as if you’re saying ‘HA’.
- Synchronize arms and head movement. Take six seconds to inhale and six seconds to exhale
Sometimes called Ocean Breathing, Ujjayi breathing also builds internal heat and is particularly useful in warming the body up for practice in a cool room. Simultaneously relaxes and energizes body and mind. Relieves stress and tension, focuses mind, and helps create self awareness and presence.
- Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth as if you are fogging up a mirror to feel the constriction in your throat. Continue with your mouth closed.
- Keep your throat constricted as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose.
- Maintain equal length for both inhales and exhales.
- Shape throat to “SO” on inhale and “HA” on exhale
- Synchronize breath with movement
Translates to skull shining; kapalabhati breathing is also a cleansing exercise. It detoxifies the lungs. It is excellent for digestion and elimination process. It also increased lung capacity, strengthens chest, abdominal and lower back muscles.
- Sit in kneeling position, knees and feet together, hands on your knees, arms straight, elbows locked, spine straight, belly and shoulders relaxed.
- Lick your lips, moisten your mouth, exhale all the air out.
- Pull your abdomen in to force the air out through your mouth.
- Focus on the exhale, inhales happen automatically
- Shape your throat and mouth as though you are trying to blow out a large candle
Functional method used to control pneumatic pressure in the lungs, and assist in maintaining stability, balance, and oxygenation during practice.
- Take a full inhale to fill up your lungs. Keep 80% of air in your lungs and just breathe in and out 20%. Constantly replenishing fresh oxygen into lungs nice and slow.
- Holding the air in your lungs helps you stay lifted.
- Usually used in backbends.
Also known as deep breathing, abdominal breathing or belly breathing. Used for relaxation, helps to reduce stress, encourages full oxygen exchange, stabilizes blood pressure, slows heart beat, and helps with pulmonary and respiratory illnesses. Most efficient and relaxed way to get air into your lungs.
- Lie on your back. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- As you slowly breathe in, allow the abdomen to rise, and as you slowly breathe out, allow the abdomen to flatten. There should be little or no movement in the chest.
- Find a rhythm for yourself. You can add a slight pause in between breaths once you become efficient in this type of breathing.
Type of diaphragmatic breathing. This foundational breathing technique is used to balance your breath and heart rate. Helps calm body and mind, reduce stress, improve mood, pain management, and sleep.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose fill up your lungs and abdomen for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale all the air from abdomen and lungs for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts repeat.
- Keep your breathing smooth and easy.
- Try not to constrict your throat or make your breath audible. Let your breath be calm and gentle.
In this form of Pranayama, the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. It will help to focus your mind as well as relieve stress and tension.
- Consciously identify the length of your natural inhale. If it is typically 3 seconds, maintain that length for the duration of your breathing practice.
- Inhale for 3, exhale for 6, then increase it to 4 and 8.
- To further activate your parasympathetic nervous system, inhale directly to your stomach rather than your lungs.
Moves the body in harmony with the natural expansion and compression of breathing. Relaxes the body and eases the mind. Slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress. Builds breath awareness, increases lung capacity and strengthens breathing muscles.
- Move body as simply and naturally as possible. Let your breath drive your movements.
- Stand tall with feet together, spine straight.
- Inhale, lift head, look up, expand chest, palms forward, open arms out, and stretch them back.
- Exhale, head down, look down, palms backwards.
- Six seconds to inhale and six seconds to exhale.