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There is more to yoga than just the positions; breath also plays a significant role. If you’re not focusing on your breathing during yoga, then you’re missing out on half of the experience. Unfortunately, many yogis – especially beginners – don’t know how to breathe correctly. It’s not just inhaled and exhaled.
There are many ways to breathe during asana and pranayama. The basic rule of thumb is to inhale when opening in front of the body and exhale when compressing. The breath should be deep and guide you through your movements. If your breathing becomes shallow and quick, it’s signal to stop and take a break.
Whether you’re new to yoga or an advanced yogi, it’s essential to know the proper way to breathe during yoga. This blog will sift through how to breathe during yoga while also sharing different types of breathing. By the end, you will know how to breathe the right way to get the most out of your yoga practice.
See also: Should You Drink Water During Yoga?
Table of Contents
How to Breathe During Yoga?
Knowing how to breathe is utterly essential for practicing yoga. No matter what type of yoga you’re performing or the pose you’re in, here are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to how to breathe during yoga.
Proper breathing techniques increase comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor, and alertness, and reduce arousal symptoms, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion, according to a 2018 study.
See also: 6 Yoga Poses for the Digestive System.
1- Always Inhale When Opening the Front of the Body
Inhaling allows the chest and belly to expand. When you perform a yoga pose that opens the front of the body, you should always inhale. This will allow you to link your breathing patterns to the move being done.
Some examples of yoga poses that require inhalation include backbends, Cobra pose, and any activity raising the head or arms.
Studies showed that proper breathing leads to better health.
2- Exhale When Compressing
Any move that compresses the chest should lead to exhaling. This is true whether you’re performing a forward bending motion, side bend, or twist. Exhaling during compression should feel natural. Trying to inhale while scrunching the front of the body would be uncomfortable and lead to potentially adverse effects.
Unilateral nostril breathing significantly decreased levels of anxiety for individuals, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
3- Always Breathe Deeply and Let Your Breath Be a Guide
You can ask any advanced yogi or teacher – the breath should always act as a guide to your movements. This can only be accomplished if you’re allowing deep breaths and centering yourself, though.
That is why breathing is so important. However, breathing should be done effortlessly.
4- Stop When the Breathing Becomes Short and Quick
Long, deep, and meaningful breaths are required for a successful yoga experience. These breaths should be done effortlessly during all yoga poses, easy to difficult. However, knowing when to stop and take a break is imperative to your health.
One easy way to determine whether your body has had enough or not is to listen to your breathing. If the breaths have become short, shallow, and quick, then it’s a clear sign that you need to rest. You should not return to practice until you are ready and able to control your breathing once more.
See also: 12 Benefits Of Goat Yoga
Do You Breathe Through Your Nose or Mouth During Yoga?
A lot of new yogis have one common question: “Is it better to breathe through your nose or mouth?” The answer is simple: it’s always suggested to breathe in and out through the nose. Breathing through the nose allows you to center the mind and create complete focus. It also allows you to remain calm, both in the mind and body.
Breathing through the nose is recommended for the entirety of the yoga session. However, it’s also suggested to breathe solely through the nose while off the mat, too. Here are a few reasons why:
- It helps to control the heart rate.
- Keeps the internal temperature under control.
- The nose filters the air for a cleaner breath every time.
- Breathing through the nose requires more use of the diaphragm, resulting in a deeper and stronger breath.
- There is a link between nose breathing and higher energy levels.
- Nose breathing may strengthen your immune system.
The Importance of Breathing in Yoga
If you haven’t been paying attention to your breathing while performing yoga, you likely don’t see why it’s crucial. After all, you have had plenty of success with a top-notch workout utilizing all types of asanas, so why focus on breathing now?
Well, while asanas might provide an excellent workout throughout the entire body, you won’t reap all of the benefits without proper breathing. One of the most significant benefits you will not receive is the relaxation that goes hand-in-hand with yoga.
Proper breathing while doing yoga will allow you to:
- Loosen up and allow your body to perform different poses without fear or injury.
- Open yourself to feeling more emotions.
- Become more in tune with your body.
- Experience your true essence by releasing impurities from the body and mind.
- Increase circulation.
- Balance hormones.
- Regenerate organs.
- Pace the nervous system.
- Find unity.
Yoga reduces stress and anxiety, improves autonomic and higher neural center functioning, and improves the physical health of cancer patients, according to a 2012 study issued in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The researchers concluded that yoga could be beneficial in the prevention and cure of diseases.
Needless to say, breathing properly while performing yoga is imperative. But it’s more than just breathing out and breathing in. This next section will discuss the top 5 things to remember when breathing through your yoga session.
Types of Breathing Performed During Yoga
Just as there are many different types of yoga poses, there are also several kinds of yoga breathing techniques. These techniques can be done on and off the mat. Most of these techniques can be used interchangeably through yoga poses. In fact, most yogis will have specific breathing techniques they prefer during particular poses than others.
- Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath): This is one of the most commonly practiced breathing techniques performed during yoga, specifically pranayama. This technique starts with breathing through the nose, then exhaling slowly while making a HA sound. From there, the mouth is closed while keeping the throat in shape needed for creating a HA noise.
- Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternating Nostrils While Breathing): Another popular pick is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. To perform this technique, you will close your fist in front of your nose and alternate closing the nostril between breaths.
- Lion’s Breath. This breathing involves a deep inhale through the nose. Then, you will exhale with your tongue sticking out.
- Kapalabhati Breathing (Skull Cleanser): This breathing technique is known for raising energy levels. Here, you will focus on deep exhaling with your arms above your head.
- Three-Part Breathing: Three-part breathing is a commonly known breathing technique before, during, and after yoga. This breathing technique calms the mind and muscles. You will place your hands on the chest and navel. Inhale through the chest, abdomen, and lower belly. Then, exhale in the same order.
- Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows): This more vigorous and fast-paced breathing technique utilizes powerful inhales and exhales. To perform this breathing type, you will sit up straight and do sharp, quick inhales and exhales. Contract the abdomen while exhaling.
Still, struggling with the proper way to breathe during yoga? Some people learn more with visual guidance.
Here is an excellent video giving newcomers an example and explanation of how to start their yoga sessions off right with the proper way to breathe. This is an excellent video for beginners.
Breathing correctly while performing yoga is imperative for ultimate success. The right breathing will ensure that you are connected in your body and mind.
Whether you’re performing an alternate nostril breathing technique or a skull cleanser, it’s essential to know that you should always inhale when opening the chest and exhale while compressing.