Written by 1:47 pm Yoga, BLOG

Inhale, Exhale: 14 Best Yoga Breathing Exercises

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Yoga is a timeless practice that not only nurtures our physical bodies but also touches the core of our inner selves. At its heart lies the profound relationship between our breath and the journey towards well-being. 

In this blog post, we delve into the art of yoga breathing exercises also known as pranayama breathing – those rhythmic, purposeful inhales and exhales that can transform your yoga practice and, in turn, your life. 

The gentle flow of air in and out of your body is far more than just a simple physiological process. It’s a bridge between the physical and the spiritual, a conduit for energy and healing. 

We’ll embark on a journey through 14 of the best breathing yoga exercises, each with its own unique benefits and applications.

These techniques will help you unlock the hidden potential within you, guiding you on a path towards greater physical and mental health, and ultimately, thriving in every aspect of your life.

The Fundamentals Of Yogic Breathing

Yoga Breathing Exercises

Before we dive into the world of breathing exercises for yoga, let’s first understand the essence of yogic breathing and why it’s so fundamental to your practice.

Yogic breathing, often referred to as Pranayama, is the art of consciously controlling the breath to maximize its positive impact on both the body and mind. 

It’s a practice that has been honed over centuries, with its roots deeply entwined in ancient Indian wisdom. The significance of yoga breathing exercises lies in their ability to bring about harmony, equilibrium, and vitality within. 

By syncing your breath with your movements, yoga becomes a transformative journey, taking you beyond the realm of physical exercise.

It’s about harnessing the life force carried within each breath, channeling it for a myriad of benefits – from reducing stress and anxiety to enhancing concentration and awakening spiritual awareness. 

In essence, understanding the fundamentals of yogic breathing is the gateway to unlocking the full potential of your yoga practice, not just on the mat but in the broader context of your daily life.

Preparing For Yoga Breathing Exercises

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Before we dive into the world of invigorating breathing exercises for yoga, it’s vital to create the right foundation.

Proper preparation is like setting the stage for a memorable performance. Imagine this as the warm-up before a big race.

First, we’ll craft an environment that nurtures your practice, free from distractions. Then, let’s talk about the basics, like how to sit comfortably and align your body for these yoga breathing exercises.

But, just like any workout, we should gently ease into it, so we’ll explore some gentle stretches and relaxation techniques to limber up.

This way, when you begin your journey into the world of yoga breathing exercises, you’ll be relaxed, focused, and ready to make the most out of these incredible techniques.

14 Best Yoga Breathing Exercises

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, often called “belly breathing,” is a fundamental yoga breathing exercise. 

To Practice It: 

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale through your nose slowly, counting to four, while allowing your abdomen to rise. Focus on deep abdominal breaths.
  • Exhale even more slowly through your mouth, counting to six, as your abdomen falls.
  • Repeat this process, concentrating on the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breath.
  • Perform this exercise for 5-10 minutes daily to experience its full benefits.

Benefits Of Diaphragmatic Breathing

This exercise helps you relax, reduce stress, and improve oxygen flow in your body. Diaphragmatic breathing is particularly beneficial for reducing anxiety, calming your nervous system, and enhancing your overall sense of well-being.

Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breathing)

Sama Vritti Pranayama, known as Box Breathing, is a calming yoga breathing exercise that helps you regain focus and reduce stress. 

To Practice It: 

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and take a moment to relax your body and mind.
  • Inhale through your nose slowly and deeply for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for the count of four, maintaining a sense of calm.
  • Exhale through your mouth for another count of four, expelling all the air from your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for a final count of four before starting the cycle again.
  • Repeat the process for a few minutes, gradually extending the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • Focus on your breath and the counting, allowing distractions to gently fade away.

Benefits Of Sama Vritti Pranayama

This yogic breathing technique can be performed anywhere and is particularly beneficial for managing anxiety, improving concentration, and enhancing mental clarity. Box Breathing is a valuable tool for finding balance in your daily life.

Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath)

Ujjayi pranayama, also known as the “ocean breath” involves slightly constricting the back of your throat to create a gentle, soothing sound during breathing. 

To Practice It: 

  • Sit in a relaxed position with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
  • As you inhale, constrict the back of your throat slightly to create a soft, ocean-like sound.
  • Maintain this constriction while exhaling, producing the same sound.
  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically, focusing on the sound and sensation of your breath.
  • Practice Ujjayi pranayama for 5-10 minutes during your yoga session or as part of your daily routine.

Benefits Of Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi yogic breathing helps you focus your mind, increase awareness, and warm the body during your yoga practice. It also aids in enhancing concentration, reducing stress, and promoting a sense of tranquility.

Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull-Shining Breath)

Kapalabhati, or “skull-shining breath,” is a powerful yoga breathing exercise that involves forceful exhalations and passive inhalations. 

  • Sit with your spine straight and your hands resting on your knees.
  • Take a few normal breaths to center yourself.
  • Start the exercise by forcefully exhaling through your nose while contracting your lower abdomen.
  • Your inhalation should be passive and natural.
  • Continue this rhythmic pattern of forceful exhalation and passive inhalation.
  • Begin with 30-50 breaths and gradually increase the count as you become more comfortable.

Benefits Of Kapalabhati Pranayama

This exercise increases lung capacity, clears your mind, and energizes your body. Kapalabhati is particularly useful for improving lung health, detoxifying the body, and increasing vitality.

Sukha Pranayama (4-7-8 Breathing)

Sukha Pranayama, also known as “4-7-8 Breathing”, is a simple and effective yogic breathing technique to relax and alleviate anxiety

To Practice It: 

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable and quiet place.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
  • Inhale quietly and deeply through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven, maintaining a sense of serenity.
  • Exhale slowly and audibly through your mouth for a count of eight, releasing all tension.
  • Complete one cycle and repeat for several rounds, ideally for a few minutes.
  • Ensure that the inhalation, holding, and exhalation are done smoothly and without force.
  • Focus your attention on the breath and the counting, letting go of any distractions.

Benefits Of Sukha Pranayama

Sukha Pranayama can be a helpful aid in managing stress, improving sleep quality, and calming the mind during challenging moments. Regular practice can lead to a sense of tranquility and a greater ability to handle life’s ups and downs.

Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)

Bhramari pranayama, or the “humming bee breath,” involves creating a humming sound while exhaling, like a bee buzzing. 

To Practice It: 

  • Find a quiet and peaceful place to sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
  • Place your thumbs on your ears, your index fingers above your eyebrows, and your remaining fingers on your eyes.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly while creating a buzzing sound, similar to a bee, by closing your throat slightly.
  • Let the sound vibrate through your head.
  • Perform Bhramari pranayama for a few minutes to promote relaxation and relieve stress.

Benefits Of Bhramari Pranayama:

Bhramari pranayama calms the mind, reduces stress, and relieves tension. It is particularly effective for calming the mind, alleviating anxiety, and promoting emotional well-being.

Anulom Vilom Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Anulom Vilom, also called “alternate nostril breathing,” focuses on balancing the flow of air in both nostrils. 

To Practice It: 

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
  • Close your eyes and relax your body.
  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and your right ring finger to close your left nostril.
  • Inhale deeply through your left nostril, counting to four.
  • Close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril, counting to six.
  • Inhale through your right nostril, close it with your thumb, and exhale through the left nostril.
  • Continue this alternate nostril breathing pattern for 5-10 minutes, focusing on smooth and controlled breaths.

Benefits Of Anulom Vilom Pranayama

This yoga breathing exercise harmonizes your energy, reduces anxiety, and enhances focus. Anulom Vilom is especially useful for reducing stress, balancing your energy, and improving mental clarity.

Sheetali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)

Sheetali Pranayama is a cooling breath exercise that helps reduce body temperature and calm the mind. 

To Practice It: 

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet space, with your spine erect.
  • Curl your tongue into a “U” shape or, if you can’t do this, simply purse your lips.
  • Inhale slowly through your curled tongue or pursed lips, taking in a long, deep breath.
  • As you inhale, focus on the cooling sensation of the air.
  • Close your mouth and exhale slowly and completely through your nostrils.
  • Repeat this process for several breath cycles, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.
  • You can do Sheetali Pranayama for 5-10 minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable.

Benefits Of Sheetali Pranayama

This yoga breathing exercise can alleviate anxiety, reduce anger, and provide a sense of mental and physical cooling. It is particularly beneficial during hot weather or moments of emotional tension.

Sheetkari Pranayama (The Hissing Breath)

Sheetkari Pranayama, also known as The Hissing Breath is another cooling yogic breathing technique. 

To Practice It: 

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit with a straight spine.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep, calming breaths.
  • Gently press your upper and lower teeth together, leaving a small gap between them.
  • Inhale slowly through the gap between your teeth, allowing the air to be drawn in.
  • Focus on the sensation of coolness as you inhale.
  • Close your mouth and exhale fully and slowly through your nostrils.
  • Repeat this process for several breath cycles, gradually increasing the duration as you become more accustomed to it.
  • Practice Sheetkari Pranayama for 5-10 minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable.

Benefits Of Sheetkari Pranayama

This yoga breathing exercise is excellent for lowering stress levels, managing anger, and cooling the body and mind. Sheetkari is known for its ability to pacify excess heat in the body, providing relief during hot and humid conditions.

Surya Bhedana Pranayama (Right Nostril Breathing)

Surya Bhedana Pranayama, or “right nostril breathing,” is a yogic breathing technique that involves inhaling through the right nostril while closing the left.

To Practice It: 

  • Sit in a comfortable, upright position with your eyes closed.
  • Use your right thumb to close your left nostril.
  • Inhale deeply and slowly through your right nostril.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb, and exhale through your left nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril while keeping your right nostril closed.
  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, and exhale through your right nostril.
  • This completes one round. Continue this pattern for several rounds.
  • Gradually extend the duration of the practice as you become more proficient.

Benefits Of Surya Bhedana Pranayama

This yogic breathing is associated with the heating, energizing, and masculine qualities of the sun. Surya Bhedana can boost vitality, improve focus, and promote alertness. It is beneficial for early morning practice or when you need an energy boost.

Chandra Bhedana Pranayama (Left Nostril Breathing)

Chandra Bhedana Pranayama, also known as “left nostril breathing,” is the counterpart to Surya Bhedana. It involves inhaling through the left nostril while closing the right. 

To Practice It: 

  • Sit in a comfortable, upright posture with your eyes closed.
  • Use your right ring finger to close your right nostril.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger and exhale through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through your left nostril.
  • This constitutes one round. Continue this pattern for several rounds.
  • Gradually extend the duration of the practice as you become more comfortable with it.

Benefits Of Chandra Bhedana Pranayama

This breath is associated with the cooling, calming, and feminine qualities of the moon. Chandra Bhedana helps reduce stress, and anxiety, and balance the mind. It is particularly useful for evening practice or when you need to unwind and relax.

Bastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)

Bastrika Pranayama, often called “bellows breath,” is a powerful and dynamic breathing exercise that involves rapid and forceful inhalations and exhalations through both nostrils. 

To Practice It: 

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  • Place your hands on your knees or in your lap.
  • Take a deep, slow breath through both nostrils.
  • Exhale forcefully through your nostrils, using your diaphragm to push the air out.
  • As you exhale, your abdomen should contract inward.
  • Inhale rapidly and forcefully through your nostrils, expanding your abdomen.
  • Exhale again with a strong force.
  • Continue this rapid inhalation and exhalation pattern for a predetermined number of breath cycles.
  • After completing the practice, take a few moments to breathe naturally and reflect on the experience.

Benefits Of Bastrika Pranayama

This exercise generates heat, increases energy, and detoxifies the body. Bastrika is excellent for improving lung capacity, increasing metabolic rate, and enhancing physical and mental endurance.

Viloma Pranayama (Against The Grain)

Viloma Pranayama, a practice that involves interrupted or “against the grain” breath, is a profound yoga breathing exercise. 

To Practice It: 

  • Find a comfortable seated position with your spine erect.
  • Place your hands on your knees or in your lap.
  • Inhale in short, interrupted bursts, like taking three or four quick sips of air.
  • Pause briefly between each inhalation, and then continue inhaling in this manner.
  • Exhale in a similar fashion, releasing the breath in short bursts with brief pauses in between.
  • Focus on the controlled, conscious nature of your breath.
  • Practice for several minutes, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • You can start with a 3-4 count for both inhalation and exhalation and then work your way up.

Benefits Of Viloma Pranayama

Viloma Pranayama encourages you to control your breath consciously. This exercise enhances your lung capacity, strengthens your respiratory muscles, and deepens your awareness of breath.

Through Viloma Pranayama, you can develop better control over your breath and increase your lung efficiency, thereby boosting your endurance during physical activities and promoting mindfulness.

Dirgha Pranayama (Three-Part Breath)

Dirgha Pranayama, also known as “Three-Part Breath” or “Complete Breath,” is a foundational yoga breathing exercise that focuses on filling the entire lung capacity.

To Practice It: 

  • Begin in a comfortable seated position or lie down on your back.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise first.
  • Continue the inhalation, expanding your ribcage next, and then your upper chest.
  • Ensure that your exhalation is equally slow and deliberate.
  • Exhale first from the upper chest, followed by the ribcage, and then allow your abdomen to fall.
  • Keep your breath smooth and continuous, without any jerky movements.
  • Pay close attention to the expansion and contraction of your abdomen, ribcage, and chest with each breath.
  • Practice for several minutes, gradually increasing the duration as you become more proficient.

Benefits Of Dirgha Pranayama

Dirgha Pranayama encourages deep, full breathing, improving the oxygen supply to your body.

This exercise promotes relaxation, reduces tension, and enhances your lung’s capacity to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, resulting in improved overall health and vitality.

Conclusion 

The combination of mindfulness, deep relaxation, and heightened energy that yoga breathing exercises offer is nothing short of transformative.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced practitioner, incorporating these yoga breathing exercises into your daily routine can be a gateway to a more vibrant and thriving life.

The magic of yoga breathing exercises lies in their simplicity and accessibility. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a specific location; just a few moments to connect with your breath can make a profound difference.

So, embrace the power of breathing yoga exercises, make them a part of your daily ritual, and embark on a journey to a healthier, happier, and more balanced you.

Remember, the path to thriving through yoga breathing is a journey, not a destination, and it’s one that’s well worth taking.

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