Breathing techniques for yoga (pranayama) help balance your mind and body and play a vital role in the practice of hatha yoga. Here we will introduce and offer guidance on some of the most important yoga breathing techniques.
We begin our earthly life with an inhalation, and finish it with an exhalation. The quality, rhythm and depth of the breathing between these two events plays a significant part in how we will experience our life.
You probably know in your own experience how your breath responds when you are scared, excited, tense or relaxed. Through bringing your breath under conscious control you can find an equilibrium, power and focus that can be applied to every area of your life.
In yoga, this is known as pranayama, (made up of prana /life force and yama /restraint, or control). Pranayama techniques will make up some part of most hatha yoga routines, and some styles of yoga (astanga, vinyasa) will use the breath as the thread running through the entire sequence of asanas.
The benefits of pranayama are numerous, from oxygenating the entire body, to stress relief, and calming the mind. But it is about more than just the physical benefits. Find out about the benefits of yoga breathing.
The accepted belief in the West is that we get our nourishment and energy from what we eat and drink. From the standpoint of yoga however the single biggest source of prana (the life-force) is from the air we breath.
Prana is contained within food and drink (the more natural and unprocessed the better) but the air around us provides a continual source. We can live without food for weeks and without water for days, but we cannot survive without air for more than a few minutes. This shows how important it is, yet it is something we commonly neglect.
Taking time everyday to practice pranayama excercises is just as vital as sitting down and having a meal. And if it is something you haven’t done yet, then you are in for a very, very pleasant surprise.
Consistent practice of pranayama can unleash hidden levels of energy, creativity and serenity. You are tapping into the very source of energy of the universe, after all.
Pranayama Breathing Techniques for Yoga
Here are three types of pranayama that are easy to get started with. Before beginning yoga breathing you may find it beneficial to cleanse your nasal passages by practising jala neti.
Alternate nostril breathing. A surprisingly powerful, purifying breathing technique.. Perfect for bringing a feeling of balance and for calming the mind.
Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing. Known as the skull shining prayamana. Helps fill the body with oxygen. Invigorating, perfect for a clear mind, and great for eliminating germs and impurities.
Bellows breathing. Helps to re-energise the system.
Got asthma? Check out the asthma breathing exercises article