The Hows and Whys on Starting Yogic Breathing

Yoga breathing technique (“pranayama”), or the controlled intake and outflow of breath in a firmly established posture, helps one to cultivate a feeling of ease and bliss. It is an essential part of a yoga practice and also necessary for bringing one’s mind to a calm center point in daily life.

Here are the top five yoga breathing techniques you need to know when starting your yogic breathing classes:

5.) Vritti

Vishama Vritti is the type of yoga breathing exercise that is a practice for uneven breathing. You can either make the inhalation longer or the exhalation shorter.

Breathe normally, observing the inflow and outflow of the breath. After a few breaths, begin to count as you inhale and exhale, still simply breathing normally and smoothly. After doing this for a few breaths, begin to inhale for three to five counts, pause, and then exhale for three to five counts. Continue to do this for as long as feels comfortable to you. As you do this more regularly, begin to extend the duration of the breath on both the inhale and exhale, as it feels right to do so.

Vritti pranayama is a type of breathing that allows for regulation of the duration of the inhalations and exhalations of breath. Keeping the focus on the timing of the breath is meditative and helps to relax the mind while also uniting the will of the mind with the functions of the body.

Sama Vritti is the opposite of Vishama Vritti. In Vishama Vritti, you take even amounts of breath. The purpose of this exercise is for relaxation and increased focus.

4.) Chandra Bhedana

This is translated to mean “moon-piercing breath.” It is performed sitting in a comfortable position like Asana.

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm. Then bring your right hand to the face and block the right nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril. Close both nostrils, hold the breath, and then release the breath through the right nostril. This is one cycle. Ensure that the breathing out process takes longer than the breathing in process. Repeat as many cycles as feels comfortable for up to thirty minutes.

The opposite of Suryabeda breathing, this breath is calming and centering. This is a particularly excellent breath for relaxation before sleep, as well as before meetings, conferences or any other event that may cause anxiety.

The benefit of this exercise includes circulation of body heat. It also helps in revitalizing the body, kicking out feelings of laziness and depression.

READ MORE: Yoga not your thing? Try these low-impact workouts instead.

 

3.) Surya-bheda

Surya means “sun” and bheda means “piercing.” Surya-bheda is a form of yoga breathing technique in which only the right nostril is used for inhaling. This yoga breathing technique was developed to ease heart problems, activate bodily functions and help balance body temperature.

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm. Then bring your left hand to the face and block the left nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril. Close both nostrils, hold the breath, and then release the breath through the left nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat as many cycles as feels comfortable, for up to thirty minutes. Said to increase vitality, this breathing technique works by receiving life force energy through the right nostril.

2.) Kapalbhati

This type of yoga breathing is translated as “the skull breathing” or “the breath of fire.”

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm. After an exhalation, draw in your breath halfway and then repeatedly blast it out through your nose, allowing the inhalation to be passive in response to the exhalation. Do 25 of these blasts of breath, and then fill your lungs, hold for a moment and release the breath in a relaxed fashion. Start with one or two rounds and build up to several minutes as you continue to integrate this breathing technique into your practice. The Breath of Fire is known for its ability to energize the entire body by oxygenating the blood and creating a feeling of exhilaration.

Also, this pranayama helps improve metabolism, blood circulation and digestion. It may also provide a flat and taut stomach.

As for the benefits of the ancient yoga breathing technique of Kapalabhati, it is believed that just like Ujayyi, this yoga breathing technique encourages healthy and strong lungs, and the contraction of the belly involved in the process also has a few benefits, like aiding digestion, improving the immune system and enlivening the brain.

1.) Ujjayi

When translated, Ujayyi means “victorious breath,” but it is commonly called the Oceanic Breath because of the sounds Ujjayi emits that help in the syncing of the movement with breath.

Ujayyi is an ancient yogic breathing technique and the word can be traced back to Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.

Breath through your nose, slightly narrowing your throat at the epiglottis – this means narrowing the throat enough to hear a sound. This sound can sound like the wind in the trees, the ocean, or, as some Western yogis think, Darth Vader. Ujjayi is the most basic of pranayama practices. Start with and become comfortable with Ujjayi before going to any other breathing techniques. By practicing this kind of yoga breathing, you will be able to connect to and focus on your breath, calm your mind with the peaceful sound and flow more intricately with your physical yoga practice.

According to chopra.com, Ujjayi has a balancing effect on the cardio-respiratory system and helps to calm the mind and body as well.

Apart from this, Ujayyi has quite a number of benefits, from reducing blood pressure to increasing the amount of oxygen in the body and enabling the free-flow of prana.

Breath is a fascinating thing. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it until we gasp for air after holding it during a scary movie or intense moment. By bringing awareness to the breath, we are reconnecting to our bodies on a fundamental level while providing a moment of pause to the flurry within from the day’s events. Remember to focus on your breath whenever you can and practice these techniques for further connection to the stillness within.

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