Angela is a yoga instructor who focuses on healing the body, spirit, and mind with a special focus on healing from trauma.
Importance of Breathing in Yoga
Breathing is an essential part of yoga. Most people in the western hemisphere usually think of yoga as the poses that we often do for exercise. Yoga is much more than that and is about understanding the mind, body, and soul connection. Some people who practice yoga focus mainly on breathing and may not do any typical poses, one usually thinks of as a yoga practice. Learning to breathe properly is actually an excellent starting point to yoga practice because it is one of the easiest ways to find control over your body and clear your mind. By breathing slow and steady, you will find that your mind will also become slower and more steady.
It is important to know how to breathe during yoga poses, as well as during meditation. Proper breathing will increase your lung capacity, which will allow you to breathe deeper and ultimately bring more oxygen to the different parts of your body. This will increase the health of your overall body.
Many of us take breathing for granted since none of us can remember a time when our heartbeat, but we did not yet have breath. But as our breath changes, so do our mind and body.
Take a moment to think about how you breathe when you are excited, now think of how you breathe when you are sad or depressed, and finally, think of how you breathe when you are relaxed. Just as your mood can change your breathing pattern, you can actually change your mood by controlling your breathing pattern.
Basic Yogic Breathing
The basic yoga breathing is essentially slowly breathing in and out. Oftentimes, especially during vinyasa, a form of yoga, a yogi will breathe in as they make one move, and as they move into another, they will breathe out. This will continue, and their breathing will determine how long they are in a specific pose. Even if they are not doing any asanas or poses, they may sit in one pose or lay down and breathe intentionally in, then exhale intentionally, paying close attention to their bodies and breathing.
Brahmari Breath or Humming Bee Breath
Brahmari breath is a common breath used in yoga. It is often also referred to as "humming bee breath" because of the sound you make when using this form of breathing. This is an excellent breathing technique, especially if you want to calm your nerves or relax. You can do this by simply breathing in, then on the exhale, you press your lips together and hum out, just like the sound of a bee. This method is great to teach children, to help them calm down when they find themselves uncontrollably upset. It's a great calming technique.
The Kapalabhati breathing, also known as skull shining breathing, is considered a cleansing form of breathing. The idea of this form of breathing is to get rid of any negative energy to help you be more of a light to those around you.
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It is a very structured breathing, where you relax when you inhale, but you have a very deliberate, forceful exhale. To do this breathing, you must inhale normally for three full breaths. Then for 10 breaths, you inhale normally then exhale quickly using your abdomen. It is actually very similar to blowing your nose. Then, once you are done with your ten kapalabhati breaths, then breathe normally for three more breaths.
Nadi Shodhana is a very intentional type of breathing. The purpose is to find balance within your body. To feel centered and in control.
You will want to use your right hand and place your thumb against the right side of your nose, and press so you can only breathe out of your left nostril. Rest your pointer finger and your middle finger against your forehead. Take a purposeful breath in from your left nostril, then a purposeful breath out from your left nostril. Then you will want to release your thumb and press your ring finger against your left nostril, so you can only breathe from your right nostril. Take a nice breath in and a nice breath out. You then continue this for about ten breaths on each side. This breathing may be uncomfortable as we discover that one side breathes more clearly than the other. This is OK.
Sithali Breath or Cooling Breath
Sitahali Breathing is also known as the cooling breath because it is great when you need to cool down, whether it be a hot day or after a tough workout. This breathing technique is effortless to do and is used when your body is relaxed, not while doing yoga poses. So while you are sitting in a relaxed seated position, you want to close your eyes. Then you want to roll your tongue so it is round like a tube and stick it out slightly, so it is like you are breathing through a tube out of your mouth. As you breathe in, be sure to breathe through your mouth, then as you breathe out, exhale through your nose. Continue this for at least ten breaths in and out.
Ujayi Breathing or Victory Breathing
The purpose of Ujayi breathing is to have victory over the mind. That is why it is often also called victory breathing. The best way to understand how to do this type of breathing is to exhale as if you are trying to fog up a mirror. This is the type of exhaling you will want to do, except instead of through your mouth, through your nose. Your body and your mind should be relaxed as you do this breath. Breathing in may sound like a hissing nose while breathing out may be reminiscent of Darth Vader.
There are many ways to breathe when you are doing your yoga practice. It is important to know what your goal is as you meditate and breathe. If you are trying to cleanse your mind, you will want to take some Kapalabhati breaths, whereas if you feel warm either because of the weather or because you had a hard workout, you will want to take some cooling breaths. Regardless of your goal, it is important that your breathing be very intentional while you do your practice.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Angela Michelle Schultz
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on June 23, 2021:
Understanding these breathing techniques is very useful, and they have many health benefits. I tried each exercise just now as you explained them, Angela, and I like how they make me feel. I especially like the Brahmari breath because it gives me a calming feeling. Thanks for writing this informative article.