Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Learning yogic breath control exercises is one of the most important parts of developing your yoga practice. Called “pranayama” in Sanskrit, these breathing exercises can help to bring balance and depth to your overall well-being. According to the ancient text, the Yoga Sutras, compiled by the sage Patanjali in 150 BCE, pranayama is one of the classical Eight Limbs of Yoga. Pranayama helps to cleanse, balance, and purify your essential life force (called “prana” in Sanskrit). Adding pranayama to your yoga and meditation practice can help you stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
Breath of Joy
Breath of Joy has been found to be particularly effective in managing mood, and will leave you feeling more balanced and refreshed. The practice counters the shallow upper chest breathing of anxiety by inviting the breath to completely fill the lungs.
The strong inhalations and synchronized arm movements, awakens your entire system —increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream, temporarily stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, circulating more prana, and gently stoking agni. The forceful exhalation lightly detoxifies the body and helps release pent-up tension.
How to perform
1. Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart and your knees softly bent.
2. As you inhale one-third of your lung capacity through your nose, swing your arms forward and up to shoulder height with your arms parallel and palms facing skyward.
3. As you inhale the next third, swing your arms out wide like the wings of a flying bird.
4. As you inhale to capacity, swing your hands out in front again and reach your arms overhead, keeping them parallel and shoulder distance apart with palms facing one another.
5. Finally, vocalize your exhale, emitting a gleeful “ha” sound, as you cascade into a slouchy forward bend with bent knees.
6. Repeat up to nine more times, picking up speed, momentum and volume as you go. Experiment with lifting onto your toes and using your knees to add spring to the action.
If you have a tendency towards dizziness or low blood pressure, you can eliminate the forward fold at the end, and just keep the arm movements. You will still get a similar effect.If you have balance issues, you can practice this on a stool or chair without arms, and use the same arm movements and forward fold from the chairIf you have shoulder or arm pain, only move your arms in a way that feels good to you.
manage symptoms of depression
counter shallow upper-chest breathing
energize the body
This practice may not be appropriate for everyone. Skip it if you have high blood pressure or if you suffer from any kind of head or eye injury, like migraines or glaucoma. If you start to feel light-headed, instead of light-headed, stop for a minute and just breathe normally.
Bhramari Pranayama Humming Bee Breath.
The Bhramari pranayama breathing technique derives its name from the black Indian bee called Bhramari. Bhramari pranayama is effective in instantly calming down the mind. It is one of the best breathing exercises to free the mind of agitation, frustration or anxiety and get rid of anger to a great extent. A simple technique, it can be practiced anywhere - at work or home and is an instant option to de-stress yourself.
How to perform
To do bhramari pranayama, sit on the yoga mat in in a comfortable meditation asana depending upon your ease and comfort you can sit in Padmasana, Siddhayoni asana or sukhasana.
Place the feet flat on the floor with the knees raised with the elbows resting on the knees. While practicing the bhramari pranayama, the spinal cord should be erect, the head straight and the hands should be resting on the knees in chin or jnana mudra.Close the eyes and relax.
The whole body should be at ease. Stay in this pose for a few breaths.While maintaining the posture, your teeth will remain slightly separated while the lips will be gently closed throughout the practice.
Maintaining this allows the sound vibration produced while practicing Bhramari pranayama to be heard and felt more clearly in the brain.
Make sure that the jaws are relaxed while maintaining the posture.
Now, raise the arms sideways and bend the elbows and bring the hands to the ears. From this position, use the index or middle finger to plug both the ears.Make sure that you plug your ears by pressing the flaps of your ears with the thumbs. Make sure that you do not insert your fingers inside your ear.
Place the fingers on your head. When you attain this position, close your eyes and concentrate on the eye center and keep inhaling and exhaling deeply.
Start inhaling deeply through the nose and exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep, long and steady humming sound.
The humming sound coming of throat should be smooth, and it should be produced during the entire time of exhalation.
The ideal exhalation technique when followed reverberated the skull and give a deep calming and relieving sensation.
This completes one round of the Bhramari pranayama. At the end of each exhalation, breathe in deeply and repeat the process.
Start by performing 5 rounds of bhramari pranayama initially.
This is the best method to achieve concentration of mind. It opens the blockage and gives a feeling of happiness to mind and brain.Beneficial in relieving from hypertension. It relaxes the mind and lowers stress.
Bhramari pranayama should never be practiced while lying down or in a supine position.
People suffering from severe ear infections should also not practice this pranayama until the infection subsides.
People suffering from epilepsy should not practice this pranayama.
Digra Pranayama Three-Part Breath
Three-Part Breath — Dirga (or Deerga) Swasam Pranayama (DEER-gah swha-SAHM prah-nah-YAH-mah) — is often the first breathing technique taught to new yoga practitioners. The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, rib cage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow.
The full name comes from two Sanskrit words. “Dirga” (also spelled “Deerga”) has several meanings, including, “slow,” “deep,” “long,” and “complete.” “Swasam” refers to the breath. Therefore, this practice is sometimes also referred to as “Complete Breath.” It is also often simply called “Dirga Pranayama.”
How to perform
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, close your eyes, let go of tension in the body. Bring awareness to your natural breath, observe your inhale and exhale as you breathe through your nose.Slowly lengthen your inhale. Expand your belly as you inhale – filling it up like a balloon.
As you exhale, slowly expel the air out from your belly and draw your navel towards your spine to empty.
Repeat long, slow belly breaths a few times to get the hang of it.
On the next inhale, fill the belly as before. When the belly is full, continue to fill the rib cage, allow the ribs to expand in all directions.
On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs come closer together, then from the belly.
Practice breathing first into the belly and then the rib cage a few times. On the next inhale, expand the belly, then the ribs. When they are full continue to fill the chest.
Imagine your heart is right in the middle of your breast bone and you are breathing into and expanding your heart. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, then from the ribs and lastly the belly.
Therefore the rhythm is as follows:
Inhale: 1-belly, 2-ribs, 3-chest; Exhale: 1-chest 2-ribs, 3-belly
Continue this sequence at your own pace, trying to use a long, soft and slow breath.
Over time this breathing technique will feel effortless. The transitions between each of the three areas with start to blend smoothly and the breath will feel as one.
Learning to breathe deeply will increase your oxygen supply, which, in turn, will help to decrease stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, focusing on your body during Three-Part Breath brings awareness to the present moment and calms your mind. According to studies, you can inhale and exhale up to seven times as much air (and oxygen and prana) during a three-part breath than in a shallow, chest-based breath. This deep breathing is the foundation for other yogic exercises, such as meditation and cleansing kriyas.
The main requirement in pranayama is that respiration be comfortable and relaxed, never forced. If at any stage you feel dizzy, nauseous or light-headed you should practice with less force, shorten the length of the breath, or stop the practice all together.
Ujjayi Pranayama (ooh-JAH-yee prah-nah-YAH-mah) is one technique that helps calm the mind and warm the body. When practicing Ujjayi, you completely fill your lungs, while slightly contracting your throat, and breathe through your nose. Its name comes from the Sanskrit word “ujjayi,” which means “to conquer” or “to be victorious.” Therefore, it is also often referred to as “Victorious Breath.” Because of the sound it makes when performed correctly, this breath is also sometimes called “Ocean Breath” or “Hissing Breath.” But, many yoga teachers simply refer to it as “Ujjayi Breath.”
How to perform Ujjayi Breath
Sit in any meditative pose like Padmasana (Lotus pose) with eye closed and try to keep your spine erect.
Take a long, deep breath slowly from both the nostril (inhale or breath in). While breath in trying to contract the throat and feel the touch of air in your throat.
Remember one thing air should not touch inside the nose.
As air touches the throat a peculiar sound is produced.
Enable the breath to be light and relaxed as you slightly contract the rear of your throat, making a gentle hissing sound as you inhale and out.
The sound isn’t forced; however, it ought to be loud enough so if somebody came near you they’d hear it.
Now breath out by closing your right nostril and exhale from the left nostril.
Try to produce the sound ‘HHHHHAAAA’ while exhaling.
Start by practicing Ujjayi for five minutes while you are seated.
For deeper meditation, increase your time to 15 minutes.
Release your Ujjayi breath when your practice is complete and you are in Corpse Pose
Benefits of Ujjayi Breathing
Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardio respiratory system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body. With Ujjayi, there are so many benefits, providing good value for a simple practice. Here are a few benefits you may enjoy as a result of practicing the Ujjayi breath:
Increases the amount of oxygen in the blood Builds internal body heat Relieves tension Encourages free flow of prana Regulates blood pressure Helps yoga practitioner to maintain a rhythm while they practice Builds energy Detoxifies mind and body Increases feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative qualities
If you are a patient of hypertension refrain from practicing this pranayama If you feel a little warmth in the back of your throat, do not worry. It is normal.If you feel dizzy, discontinue the process and start breathing normally. Make sure under any circumstances the proportion of the breathing is not forced.
Nadi = subtle energy channel; Shodhan = cleaning, purification; Pranayama = breathing technique.
Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing,” is a simple yet powerful technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. You can use it to quiet your mind before beginning a meditation practice, and it is particularly helpful to ease racing thoughts if you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or having trouble falling asleep.
There are several different styles of Nadi Shodhana, but they all serve the purpose of creating balance and regulating the flow of air through your nasal passages. In fact, the term Nadi Shodhana means “clearing the channels of circulation.”
Find a comfortable seat. You may want to lean against a wall or sit in a chair. It’s important that you find ultimate comfort before practicing meditation and pranayama. Sit tall, lengthening the spine and softening the shoulders. Relax the muscles in your face and throat.
Begin deep breathing in and out through the nose. Take a few minutes to release any stagnant energy in the body and establish a deep sense of awareness of the breath and body.
To begin Nadhi Shodhana find Mrigi mudra by bringing the pointer and middle finger of the right hand together and into to palm.
Bring the ring and pinky fingers together and straighten them up as much as possible. Your right thumb will hold the right nostril closed as you inhale through the left nostril.
Release the right thumb and hold closed the left nostril as you exhale out the right nostril. Understand why we call it, “alternate nostril breathing?” Continue this, inhaling through right nostril with left nostril held closed by pink and ring finger.
Upon your exhale, press the thumb gently onto the right nostril, exhaling out the left nostril. That is one round or cycle. Practice this for five to 10 rounds. Notice the soothing and calming effects even within the first few rounds. Remember to keep your inhales and exhales of even length!
Length of Practice
Nadi Shodhan can be practiced anytime throughout your day. It’s good to do on an empty stomach, so early morning is great. You can also practice before bed to calm down for a good night’s sleep. I find it’s a great way to prepare for a slower yoga practice, like yin, yoga Nidra, or restorative. Try five to 10 rounds until you feel comfortable to practice longer and eventually work up to a few minutes.
Speed of Practice: The length of inhalations and exhalations should be even in length and speed. Since this is a cooling and centering breath technique, take it slow. The slower and deeper the breath, the better.
Benefits: Nadi Shodhana purifies the blood and respiratory system. The deeper breathing enriches the blood with oxygen. This Pranayama strengthens the respiratory system and balances the nervous system. It helps to relieve nervousness and headaches.
Practicing alternate nostril breath is safe for most people. Talk to your doctor before starting the practice if you have a medical condition such as asthma, C.O.P.D, or any other lung or heart concern. If you feel any adverse effects, such as shortness of breath, while doing the breathing technique, you should stop the practice immediately. This includes feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous.
If you find that the breathing is bringing up feelings of agitation or that it triggers any mental or physical symptoms, you should stop the practice.
Kapalabhati (also Kapalbhati) Pranayama — (kah-pah-luh-BAH-tee prah-nah-YAH-mah) — is an intermediate-to-advanced pranayama that consists of short, powerful exhales and passive inhales. This exercise is a traditional internal purification practice, or kriya, that tones and cleanses the respiratory system by encouraging the release of toxins and waste matter. It acts as a tonic for the system, refreshing and rejuvenating the body and mind.
Its name comes from two Sanskrit words: Kapala— meaning skull Bhati— meaning light
Therefore, it is sometimes referred to as “Light Skull Breathing” or “Skull Brightener Breath.” As you practice, you can imagine the lining of your skull being filled with the brightness of enlightenment.
How to perform
Sit in a comfortable seat and close the eyes for a few slow deep breaths. Lengthen the spine and let the shoulders relax down the back. Take a few moments to deepen the breath and find an even length inhalation and exhalation, in and out through the nose.
As your awareness remains on the breath in and out of the nose, begin to contract the stomach muscles on your exhale, bringing the belly button towards the spine as all the air is released from the body.
Begin to notice that the inhale becomes involuntary. Imagine your belly like a bellow as you strongly press air out on the exhale.
Start to speed up the breath cycles.
Find a balanced rhythm of breath that you can manage for a few rounds, eventually working up to a few minutes of breath of fire breathing. Remember, even length of inhales and exhales.
Most people who practice Kapalabhati regularly will tell you that they do it because it gives them an energy boost and a surge of heat. There are many reasons to explore the practice, including that Kapalabhati breathing:
Cleanses lungs and respiratory system, Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles, Releases toxins, Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process, Improves digestion, Energizes and clears mind, Focuses attention, Warms body
Kapalabhati Pranayama is an advanced breathing technique. Do not attempt it if you are not proficient with basic pranayamas, such as Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) and Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama). Also avoid practicing Kapalabhati if you currently have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a hernia. Women who are pregnant should avoid practicing this exercise, as well. As with all breathing exercises, always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema.
Sheetali Pranayama, also known as Cooling Breath, is a breathing practice that very effectively cools the body, the mind, and the emotions. Sheetali comes from the Sanskrit root sheet, which means “cold” or “frigid.” Sheetal translates roughly as ‘that which is calm, passionless, and soothing’. Sheetali pranayama calms and soothes the mind-body organism by activating a powerful evaporative cooling mechanism on the inhalation, delivering a gently cooling energy to the deep tissues of the body. Remarkably, this pranayama also en kindles the digestive fire—just as a live coal covered in ash might begin to glow under the influence of a cold wind
How to perform Shitali Pranayama (sheetali Pranayama Steps)
Sit in a comfortable position with the head, neck, and spine in alignment.Close your eyes, breathe diagrammatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch).
Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.
Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and repeat the cooling breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Length of Practice
Usually, 15 rounds of this Pranayama are enough to cool the body, but if you are in a very hot environment, you can practise up to 60 rounds.
Can’t Curl Your Tongue? Try Sitkari
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.