5 Best Yoga Breathing Techniques for Beginners

Pranayama1, or yoga breathing, is a core feature in the practice of yoga. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked. Most people tend to concentrate on contouring the body and balancing it to do different postures, neglecting breathing patterns.

Yoga without breathing is not yoga, as it is the foundation of yoga practice2. Breathwork and movement together make yoga a powerful and relaxing experience. Whether you are on a mat in yoga class or your home, yoga and breathing exercises will help you clear your mind and relieve stress.

But it is important to understand how to breathe and why to breathe in that particular way. This is a short guide on different yoga breathing techniques3, their importance, and how to integrate breathing into yoga practice.

5 Types of Yoga Breathing Techniques

1. Kapalbhati

It is a rejuvenating pranayama practice 4that helps warm and cleanses the body. It is considered most effective in detoxifying the body. It creates warmth in the core and leaves the body stimulated. This yoga breathing technique involves inhaling normally and exhaling forcefully.

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How to do: Sit comfortably with a straight spine. Place your hands on your thighs or lower belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Press your belly button in towards the spine as you forcefully exhale out. Inhale passively and exhale forcefully.

Repeat this pattern ten times. When finished, breathe normally and feel the sensation left behind by the practice.

2. Ujjayi

It means ‘victorious’ or ‘to conquer.’ It is also known as ‘Ocean breathe’ due to the sound produced during the practice. The ujjayi breath is a long, slow breath that helps calm the mind and balance strength.

This yoga breathing technique helps build energy and improve meditative quality through each movement.

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How to do: Close your mouth, inhale and exhale deeply. Expand the chest and lungs while inhaling deeply, and hold your breath when you’ve reached the peak. At the same pace as the inhale, slowly constrict the back of the throat and let the air pass from the navel through the throat and out the nostril.

Remember that inhalation and exhalation have to be deep and slow. This yoga breathing technique may be integrated with yoga practice or done while comfortably seated.

3. Bhastrika

Also known as ‘Bellow’s breath’ or ‘breath of fire,’ is like a cardio workout for the lungs and energizes the whole body. This yoga breathing technique helps in increasing physical endurance and also clears the mind. It may also be coupled with power yoga to lose weight.

How to do: In this breathing technique, both inhalation and exhalation are quick and forceful. Sit comfortably with your spine straight, hands on your thighs, and palms facing up.

Take a deep breath in through the nose. Press the belly button to the spine and swiftly and forcefully exhale through the nose. Inhalation and exhalation should be paced at the same intervals of time and with the same amount of strength. Also, move quickly through each breath.

4. Lion’s breath

It is typically practiced in yoga along with Simhasana or Lion’s pose. It helps reveal stress and relax the body, with emphasis around the neck and jaw. After a sweaty yoga class, this is a good way to cool down.

Lion's Breath - Foundations of Yoga

How to do: If possible, settle in Lion’s pose or sit cross-legged on the floor or a chair. Check that your spine is long and your shoulders are away from your ears. Press the palms on the thighs and open the shoulders to feel good in the chest and upper back.

Take a deep breath in through the nose and open your eyes wide. Open your mouth and stick your tongue out, pointing it towards the ground. Exhale with a deep breath out through the mouth with a ‘ha’ sound.

Focus your gaze on looking at the space between your eyebrows or the third eye. Now, repeat it 3-5 times.

5. Nadi Shodhana

This breathing technique involves alternate nostril breathing or breathing through one nostril at a time. It helps in relaxing the nervous system and is perfect for managing stressful situations. Nadi Shodhana is known to balance the three doshas of humans: the mind, body, and soul. This yoga breathing technique can be seen as a bridge between yoga and meditation as it helps clear the mind.

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How to do: Lift your right hand and place the index and middle fingers on the forehead between the eyebrows. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Hold your breath briefly.

Close the left nostril, release the thumb and exhale through the right side. Inhale through the right nostril while keeping the left closed. Hold the breath momentarily and close the right nostril while releasing the left side to breathe out.

Be consistent with inhales and exhales. Repeat this yoga breathing technique 5-10 times.

In a yoga class, you may have felt strange when the instructor tells you to stick your tongue out or to breathe through one nostril. Now, you know, it is all part of Pranayama. These are a few different yoga breathing techniques often practiced in yoga.

Caution: Do not practice Kapalabathi or Bhastrika if you are pregnant.

How to Use Breathing Exercises in Yoga Practice?

Most of us breathe from the chest. This may indicate to the brain that the body and mind are stressed. Yoga breathing techniques focus on breathing deeply as if from the abdomen boosting respiration. This ensures a rich supply of oxygen to the brain and body, relieving stress.

In yoga, each asana (posture) is tied to breathing. Each movement involves an inhale or exhale. This helps in stabilizing the mind from wandering around and concentrating on the present moment.

Yoga breathing techniques can be integrated into yoga practice through simple methods.

Inhalation helps expand the chest and abdomen and can be practiced with movements that open the front of the body. These movements may include raising hands or head. Exhale while compressing the front of the body. In movements that involve bending forward or twisting sideways, exhalation is practiced.

Always keep the breath effortless and deep. This is an important rule to remember. The depth of yoga breathing relaxes the nervous system and revitalizes the life force.

Benefits of Yoga Breathing

Like the many benefits of yoga, pranayama also has several benefits. Yoga breathing techniques used along with yoga asana or postures give the best results of the practice. Pranayama is the key to healthy and happy living.

The specific rhythm of these yoga breathing exercises offers numerous benefits to the mind and body:

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

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There have been numerous studies that have shown the benefits of breathing on stress management. It helps calm the nervous system and increase the uptake of oxygen. It is said, those who practice pranayama tend to experience less anxiety.

2. Improves Sleep Quality

Yoga breathing helps in relaxing the body and improving breathing. Those who suffer from snoring or daytime sleepiness may benefit from practicing pranayama. 5The quality of breathing is enhanced with yoga breathing techniques which may help conditions like obstructive sleep apnea.

3. Enhance Cognitive Performance

Yoga breathing is known to improve cognitive functions like memory, reasoning skills, and also focus. Studies have shown that the stress-lowering effects of pranayama and the increased oxygen uptake help in energizing the brain. This leads up to increased efficiency of mental activity.

4. Improves Digestion

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Yoga breathing techniques like Kapalabathi help in massaging the abdominal muscles. The work done on the abdomen helps in improving the working efficiency of the organs inside. Also, the lowering of stress due to breathing exercises helps in giving extra energy for digestion.

5. Increases Lung Function

Studies have been conducted to find the use of yoga breathing as a strengthening tool for conditions like asthma and bronchitis. Being a breathing exercise, pranayama may be used to improve lung functioning.

6. Reduces High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the causes of serious conditions like heart disease and stroke. Stress is a major factor in high blood pressure. Yoga breathing techniques help to minimize the risk by reducing stress.

7. Increases Mindfulness

Breathing is a natural process, everyone breaths. In pranayama, one has to concentrate on how to breathe and feel the sensation left behind. This helps in increasing awareness and helps to be mindful of actions and emotions.

The Bottom Line

Pranayama or yoga breathing is an integral part of yoga practice. It is practiced with yoga postures and meditation. The final goal of yoga breathing is to connect with the body and mind.

Pranayama may seem simple, but it is very powerful. It is suggested to learn and practice yoga breathing techniques from a certified yoga teacher, who can check and modify your practice and answer your questions.

Correct yoga breathing techniques can be extremely beneficial for the overall health of a person. These breathing exercises help in connecting and gaining control of the happenings in the body. They help in managing stress, relaxing the body, and eventually maintaining health.

So, take some time to go to a yoga class and learn to breathe.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Yoga Require a Particular Manner to Breathe?

Yes! In yoga, you should concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths while breathing through your nose. Additionally, you may attempt breathing in response to your actions, such as inhaling during up reaches and exhaling during forward folds.

2. Can I Practice the Breathing Exercises from Yoga on My Own?

Absolutely! Breathing exercises can be used without engaging in a full yoga practice to reap their benefits. To unwind and refocus, you can use them anywhere, anytime.

3. How Long Should I Work on The Breathing Exercises from Yoga?

Yoga breathing exercises can be done for as little or as much time as you wish! A small amount of time each day can have a significant impact.

  1. Sengupta, Pallav. “Health impacts of yoga and pranayama: A state-of-the-art review.” International journal of preventive medicine 3.7 (2012): 444. ↩︎
  2. Stephens, Mark. Teaching yoga: Essential foundations and techniques. North atlantic books, 2011. ↩︎
  3. Telles, Shirley, et al. “Immediate effect of three yoga breathing techniques on performance on a letter-cancellation task.” Perceptual and motor skills 104.3_suppl (2007): 1289-1296. ↩︎
  4. Sharma, Vivek Kumar, et al. “Effect of fast and slow pranayama practice on cognitive functions in healthy volunteers.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR 8.1 (2014): 10. ↩︎
  5. Kaminsky, David A., et al. “Effect of yoga breathing (pranayama) on exercise tolerance in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a randomized, controlled trial.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 23.9 (2017): 696-704. ↩︎

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