That said, here are FIVE simple yogic breathing techniques for us to learn and apply in our lives.
1. The Belly Breath
This is a core of breathing technique that is often used in yoga classes where it helps bring awareness to the body and calms the mind. If you’re new to pranayama, it’s helpful to initially perform this lying down, knee bent if needed, to feel the muscles of abdomen engaging. And once you become familiar with the practice, you can continue while sitting.
i. Place one hand on your belly
ii. Take a deep breath in through your nostril, drawing the air down through the diaphragm toward your lower belly. Feel the belly expand and rise as you inhale
iii. Exhale through the nose and feel the belly contract and lower. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position. The breaths should be deep and elongated
iv. Practice this technique 3 to 5 minutes several times a day, or whenever you feel stressed
2. The Complete Breath
The Complete Breath is known as Dirgha Pranayama. Dirgha means “long” in Sanskrit and includes the expansion of the abdomen, chest, and neck region. This breath helps to calm the mind and develop deeper awareness.
i. While lying down or sitting, place one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest
ii. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, drawing the air into the lower abdomen and pelvic area, feeling your hand rise with your belly
iii. Continuing to inhale, feel the rib cage begin to expand outward as the mid-section of the torso becomes engaged
iv. Finally, draw air into the upper chest and allow the collar bones to rise. Feel the hand rise with the chest
v. At the peak of inhalation, pause for a moment, then exhale gently in reverse order, releasing the upper chest first, then the diaphragm
and ribs, and finally the lower abdomen. Slightly contract the abdominal muscles to push residual air out of the bottom of your
vi. After some practice, it should start to feel like a gentle wave motion
vii. Perform a few rounds and the notice how you feel
3. The Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you’re feeling anxious or ungrounded, practice the Alternate Nostril Breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana in the yogic tradition. This will immediately help you feel calmer.
i. Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply though your left nostril
ii. At the peak of your inhalation, close off your left nostril with your fourth finger, lift your right thumb, and then exhale smoothly through
your right nostril
iii. After a full exhalation, inhale through the right nostril, closing it off with your right thumb at the peak of inhalation, lift your fourth finger
and exhale smoothly through your left nostril
iv. Continue with this practice for 3 – 5 minutes, alternating your breathing through each nostril. Your breathing should be effortless,
with your mind gently observing the inflow and outflow of breath
4. The Ocean’s Breath
When you feel angry, irritated, or frustrated, try the Ocean’s Breath or Ujjayi (pronounced as oo-jai) as it can soothe and settle your mind
i. Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your
throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like waves on the ocean.
ii. Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound
with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages.
iii. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale
iv. Continue for 3 – 5 minutes or however long it feels comfortable
5. The Energizing Breath
When you are feeling blue or sluggish, try the Energizing Breath or Bhastrika. This will give you an immediate surge of energy and invigorate
i. Begin by relaxing your shoulders and take a few deep, full breaths from your abdomen
ii. Now start exhaling forcefully through your nose, followed by forceful, deep, inhalations at the rate of one second per cycle. Your
breathing is entirely from your diaphragms, keeping your head, neck, shoulder and chest relatively still while your belly moves in
iii. Start by doing a round of 10 breaths, then breathe naturally and notice the sensation in your body. After 15 to 30 seconds, begin the
next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 breaths. Beginners are
advised to take a break between rounds.
Although Bhastrika is a safe practice, stay tuned in to your body during the process. If you feel light-headed or very uncomfortable, stop for a few moments before resuming in a less intense manner.
Contraindications: Do not practice Bhastrikla if you’re pregnant or have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy/seizure, panic disorder, hernia, gastric ulcer, glaucoma, or vertigo. Use caution if there is an underlying lung disease. Perform one of these breath techniques for five minutes twice daily, and you can see its long-term benefits. You can also use them anytime you’re feeling stressed or notice that your breathing has become constricted.
By training your body with regular practice of deep breathing, you will begin to breathe more effectively without concentrating on it.