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Best Yoga Breathing Exercises and Techniques

Updated on December 27, 2015

Essence of Yoga Pranayama

Breathing is one of the vital functions in life. Hence, breathing has become synonymous to life. However, yoga breathing or pranayama is entirely different. It refers to your ability for breath control, which is both an art and science.

Since most exercises in yoga require you to combine breathing exercises, your ability to control your body is therefore important in determining the overall impact of these exercises to your body. The process of exhaling also releases harmful toxins in the body, which help to boost your mind, body, and spirit.

Breathing Exercises - Introduction to Pranayama

Breathing Stages in Yoga

Pranayama or breathing in yoga is divided into stages with each one representing a crucial aspect in ensuring the natural flow of your breathing. After all, the concept of breathing in yoga is important in tapping oxygen into your body and affecting overall function.

Below is the list of these stages and the corresponding role they play:

  • Inhalation – This is the part of the breathing process wherein in your draw air in during a single process of inhalation. This step must be continuous to facilitate for a smooth series of breaths.
  • Pause After Inhaling – This step is a deliberate effort to stop the flow of air and retain it inside your lungs. To be able to do that, it is important to prevent any form of movement on your lung muscles and stay motionless.
  • Exhalation – After inhaling and pausing, you are now ready to release the air in the same motion as you inhale but only done in a reverse manner. This process helps in relaxing tensed muscles and here is where you get to experience full relaxation.
  • Pause After Exhaling – This is the final stage in your breathing cycle, which is another deliberate attempt to cut the flow of air. It will signal the start of a new process of inhalation.

Anuloma Viloma - Yoga breathing exercice (Pranayama)

Traditional Breathing Exercises

Before moving onto the advanced breathing techniques that you will learn in practice of yoga, it is important to begin with the traditional ones first to serve as your foundation. These techniques will provide valuable insights into the natural process of breathing and how you can utilize them for optimum relaxation.

*High breathing – This form of breathing utilizes mostly your upper lungs and chest. When you perform high breathing, you will notice your shoulders and collar bone raise slightly. This is the least recommended form of breathing due to the small air capacity and yet it is still quite common.

*Low breathing – Contrary to high breathing, this one involves more of your lower chest and lungs. It is considered most effective as compared to the other forms of breathing since you are moving your abdominal muscles at each breath. It is mostly executed when one is physically active and increase the amount of air you are able to inhale. Plus, it expands your lungs and massages your abdominal organs.

*Middle breathing – This is probably one of the more difficult breathing technique to practice but is mostly characterized by the filling of air in the mid-section of your lungs. And yet, yogi experts consider this as a shallow form of breathing but is much superior to high breathing.


Suggested Breathing Techniques

If you intend to practice yoga and become skilled at it, it is important to practice some of the basic yoga breathing techniques there is. Each one produces a different effect on the body and it is therefore important to choose properly the technique you are going to use.

Cleansing Breath

To perform this technique, you simply need to find a comfortable sitting position to get started. Make sure to wear comfortable clothing so you will feel naturally relaxed to begin with. Start with a normal breathing pattern then gradually move into deep inhalation and forceful exhalation. This has to be done in a rapid manner.

During exhalation, you can try contracting your muscles to do it more effectively. After completing the exhalation, relax your stomach muscles so you can begin with inhalation once again. You will notice that you will be able to establish a rhythm after some time of repeating this procedure.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Alternate Nostril Breathing

To perform this breathing exercise, you will need the aid of your hands. Use the thumb in your right hand to close your right nostril and leaving only your left nostril open. You can then use the open nostril to inhale and soon after drawing air in, immediately use your pinky to close the left nostril. At this point, you leave the right nostril open for the air to exhale.

Repeat the same process and this time out, starting with your left nostril covered first.

One Nostril Breathing

Here is another variation to common yoga breathing techniques that you can use. As with the Alternate Nostril Breathing, you will start by using your thumb to close off one of your nostrils. Then, use the open nostril to breathe air in. however, you will have to use the same open nostril to expel air during exhalation. After one breathing cycle is completed, you can switch to the other side until a full cycle is completed. You can repeat this process but only two repetitions is recommended per day.

Cooling Breath

This breathing technique is aptly called as such due to its ability to produce a cooling effect on your body. This is best recommended to relax your body after an intensive yoga workout.

Start on a seated position and take a couple of deep exchange of inhalation and exhalation. However, you need to breathe through your nose at this point to prepare for the upcoming exercise. Roll your tongue as you try to mimic the shape of the letter “O” with your lips, such that your tongue curls in the middle. Then, allow air to pass through the tube of your tongue and use your nose for exhalation. You can repeat this several times.

Best Yoga Breathing Exercises Videos on Amazon


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