Yoga Breathing: It’s Not Just for Yoga


Yoga Breathing: It’s Not Just for Yoga

by: Lisa Truesdale


Breathing. It seems like it should be the most natural bodily function of all, seeing that it’s the first thing we must do, without being taught how, the second we are born.

But then there’s yoga breathing: pranayama. It’s the art of breathing. Taking breathing to the next level. Learning different breathing techniques can add more beneficial oxygen to our bodies, aid in digestion, hone our concentration skills, calm our nerves, and much more.

Pranayama techniques are essential during a yoga practice, but can also be employed any time—when you wake up in the morning, when you’re sitting at your desk during a stressful day, when you’re relaxing after dinner, as part of a bedtime routine.

Here are three breathing exercises to get you started:

1. Sanskrit name: Bhramari

Informal name: Bee Breath

Purpose: Instantly calms the mind (and gets anxiety to “buzz off”). Relieves tension. Helps reduce blood pressure.

How-to: Sit up straight with eyes closed. Place your index fingers on the cartilage between your ears and cheeks. Take a deep breath in, and when you’re ready to exhale, press gently on the cartilage. As you breathe out, make a humming sound like a bee, keeping your mouth closed. A high-pitched hum is more effective, but a low-pitched hum works also. Do this 6-8 times.

Caution: Bee Breath should always be done on an empty stomach.

2. Sanskrit name: Kapal Bhati

Informal name: Skull Shining Breath

Purpose: A glowing, shining forehead is a sign of a healthy body, so that’s how this one got its name. Kapal Bhati brings the system into balance, releasing toxins and you exhale. It also stimulates the abdominal organs and can improve digestive-tract function.

How-to: Sit comfortably with an erect spine and place your hands on your knees with your palms facing up. Inhale deeply. Exhale forcefully, pulling your navel back towards your spine, and the breath automatically flows to your lungs. Do this 20 times, then relax and feel the sensations. Do up to two more rounds of 20 breaths.

Caution: Skull Shining Breath shouldn’t be attempted if you have an artificial pacemaker or stents, a slipped disc or other backache, epilepsy, hernia, or recent abdominal surgery. Do not practice this breath if you are pregnant, recently gave birth, or are menstruating.

3. Sanskrit name: Bhastrika

Informal name: Bellows Breath

Purpose: Increases energy; helps boost digestive power and metabolism; strengthens the nervous system.

How-to: Sit up straight and tall with shoulders relaxed. Take a few initial breaths in and out from your nose. Expand your belly fully on each inhale. Now exhale forcefully from your nose, then inhale forcefully, with each inhale-exhale lasting about one second. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm. As your belly moves in and out, keep the rest of your body still. Complete 10 breaths the first time, take a short break, then increase to 20 and then 30 if you feel up to it.

Caution: If Bellows Breath causes you to feel lightheaded, take a break until it passes, and if you resume, try breathing less forcefully with each inhale and exhale. Do not perform Bellows Breath too close to bedtime or your mind might be too active and energized to fall asleep.

Also in Blog

Body Peace & Personal Empowerment
Body Peace & Personal Empowerment

From the moment we’re born and take our first breath, we’re being socialized or learning what it means to be a member of the culture we were born into. We begin learning through both subtle and overt cues, messages, observations and images what the values and norms of that culture are in that time and place. We learn what is acceptable, desirable, worthy, valuable… and what isn’t.
Yoga for Swimmers: Poses for Strength and Mobility
Yoga for Swimmers: Poses for Strength and Mobility

Micha Shaw, former pro swimmer, walks us through five yoga poses that help athletes who perform repeated movements day in and day out, to not only increase flexibility, mobility and strength, but also bring awareness to movement patterns, enhance performance and stay injury-free.
Amanda Huggins: From Anxiety to Empowerment
Amanda Huggins: From Anxiety to Empowerment

Amanda Huggins, anxiety coach and Gaiam influencer, tells the story of how she transformed her anxiety into empowerment and offers journaling prompts to begin the process of understanding your relationship with anxiety.