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10 Best Yoga Breathing (Pranayama) Exercises

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Table of contents:

  1. Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull-shinning, cleansing Breath or Breath of Fire)

  2. Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)

  3. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

  4. Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath or Victorious Breath)

  5. Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath Retention)

  6. Simha Mudra Pranayama (Lion’s breath)

  7. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellow Breath)

  8. Dirga Swasam Pranayama (Three-Part Breathing)

  9. Sitali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)

  10. Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing)

 

Breathing is the body’s most essential mechanical function. You have been doing it ever since birth and without any conscious thought to it. Hence, when you hear about yoga breathing or pranayama, it seems naturally effortless to you. Although you should be aware that Pranayama is more than just breathing. Instead, it is the art of controlling your breathing. Pranayama incorporates specific patterns and movements into your effortless breathing to enhance its benefits to you.

10 Best Yoga Breathing (Pranayama) Exercises
Breathing (Pranayama) Exercises

Learning the techniques of pranayama can offer more oxygen to your body, improve your digestion, calm your anxiety, aid in the ease of your nerves, hone your focus and help in your concentration skill, among many other benefits. When you utilize different techniques of pranayama, you notice different effects on your body as a result. In this article, I have shortlisted 10 best yoga breathing exercises for you, how you can do it, and its benefits to you.

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You can start the following techniques by relaxing and making yourself ready. If, in the duration of the exercise, you feel lightheaded or dizzy, then take short gaps and focus on evening out your breaths.


1. Kapalabhati Pranayama

(Skull-shinning, cleansing Breath or Breath of Fire)

Kapalabhati, also known as skull cleaning or shinning, can be done sitting cross-legged, on a chair, or even standing. Although, for each pose, you have to have an erect spine. Place your hand on your knees with palms facing up (you can make any mudra of your choice), inhale a deep breath, and exhale slowly and forcefully. You have to pull in your lower abs towards your spine and force out the air in short spurts or contractions. Between each active quick exhalation, your inhalation should be passive. Do this for 25 to 30 exhalations.

Kapalabhati releases toxins from your body, stimulates the nervous system, brings your system into balance, improves the digestive functions, and helps with weight loss. This pranayama, however, should not be performed if you have a backache, slipped disc, hernia, recent abdominal operation, epilepsy, menstruation, or are pregnant.

2. Bhramari Pranayama

(Bee Breath)

Bhramari pranayama calms the mind, reduces blood pressure, ease anxiety, soothe nerves, and relieves tension, stress, and anger.

For bee breath yoga, you should start by sitting up straight with eyes closed. Place your index finger on the cartilage between your cheeks and ears, take a deep breath and press down on the cartilage gently as you breathe out. Keep your eyes and mouth closed. When you exhale, make a high pitched humming sound like a bee. Do not perform this pranayama on a full stomach.


Storytime for kids

3. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

(Alternate Nostril Breathing)

The Nadi Shodhana pranayama is the go-to breathing exercise for increasing focus and lower blood pressure. People most often use this exercise right before an exam or important test, or if you tend to overthink before sleep, then do this right before bed to increase the quality of your sleep.

Start with getting in a comfortable seating position. Make a fist in front of your nose and extend your thumb and ring finger towards the right and left nostril respectively, we are going to make you alternate your breathing to unblock your energy passages. Use your thumb to close your right nostril and take in a long deep breath, through your left nostril, hold, close the left nostril with your ring finger, breathe out slowly through your right nostril. Inhale a second time through the right nostril and repeat the whole process while exhaling from the left nostril.

If you are trying alternate nostril breathing for the first time, then it can seem a bit confusing but with practice becomes really easy. The key to this exercise is remembering that you are sealing your breath in with each inhales and that you switch sides every time you inhale. A one completed cycle repeated 3 to 5 times will prove to be the most effective for your mental focus.



4. Ujjayi Pranayama

(Ocean Breath or Victorious Breath)

Ujjayi Pranayama enhances a person’s relaxation response. This yoga breathing exercise stimulates the sensory receptors that induce a calming sense. This explains why the ocean breeze is known to calm the mind instantly.

You can perform this breathing exercise sitting down or standing up. Begin by relaxing your shoulders and closing your eyes, inhale a deep full breath through your nose, then slowly exhale through your mouth, making a “Ha” sound. Afterward, stay in the same position and resume your normal breathing form the nose.

5. Kumbhaka Pranayama

(Breath Retention)

Kumbhaka pranayama is the perfect breathing technique to increase oxygenation in the body, improve your overall health and your concentration level. This yoga breathing also reduces the circulatory system’s strain.

You can start by getting into a comfortable seated position and generally inhaling as you usually inhale. For 10 seconds, hold that breath and inhale a little more if you can then repeat it one more time and exhale slowly. The goal of performing this exercise accurately is to remember that you are aiming towards expanding your lungs as much as you can.

If you are an anxious person, you might find difficulty in holding your breath for 10 seconds. In that case, you can start with 3 seconds and build your way up top longer retention.


6. Simha Mudra Pranayama

(Lion’s breath)

This is a fun exercise that is fit for both kids and adults. Simha Mudra Pranayama is an energizing yoga breathing technique that relieves tension from the chest and face.

Lion’s breath is best done on either sitting on your heel or sitting cross-legged. Get into sitting position, whichever you are comfortable with. Then, spread your palms, facing down, on your knees, and breathe in deeply from your nose. Lean your head back, open your mouth while you stick your tongue out like a lion, and exhale suddenly with full force, making a sharp “ha” sound. You can hold your hand up, forming cactus arms to accentuate the “letting go” effect.

7. Bhastrika Pranayama

(Bellow Breath)​

Bhastrika Pranayama is ideal for increasing energy and strengthening the nervous system, as well as help in losing weight by boosting the metabolism and digestive powers.

Start this pranayama by sitting up with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Initially, Inhale and exhale normally for a few minutes from your nose, expand your belly as much as you can with each inhales. Then start forcefully inhaling and exhaling from your nose, each breath lasting one second. Make sure not to move any part of your body except the belly; try to get the breath to form the diaphragm.

The bellow breath technique can leave you lightheaded therefore take breaks until the dizziness passes over. Avoid doing this breathing technique before bed.

8. Dirga Swasam Pranayama

(Three-Part Breathing)

People suffering from insomnia, stress, anxiety, or frustrating situations should give Dirga Swasam pranayama a chance. This pranayama soothes the body and calms the mind.

Get into a comfortable seated position with your back straight, place your right hand on your chest above your heart, and your left hand on your navel. You are going to breathe in three parts. Breathe in thought your chest, then your upper abdomen, ending in puffing out your belly. Exhale slowly starting from your belly, moving up top your abdomen ending on your chest.

9. Sitali Pranayama

(Cooling Breath)

Sitali pranayama is known to bring down the body temperature and an impressive cooling effect. It also calms thirst and hunger while providing a relaxed mind. To do this pranayama effectively, you need to position yourself in a place that is free from disturbance, air pollution, and any allergens since you will breathe form your mouth for this breathing technique.

Start by sitting in a comfortable and relaxed position with your back straight. You can make any mudra of your choice. Stick your tongue out and roll the edges of your tongue to bring them together or purse your lips. Breathe in from your mouth and breathe out form your nose. You can continue this breathing technique for up to 5 minutes.



10. Sama Vritti

(Equal Breathing)

Sama Vriti works on making your breathing of equal length, which in turn reduces your stress hormones and calms your nervous system. Because of this equal breathing technique, your breath becomes more smooth and steady, resulting in a more focused mind.

You can perform this pranayama either sitting up or lying down, whichever you are most comfortable in. Breath in through your nose and prolong the breath to 4 seconds and exhale similarly form your nose for an equal amount of time. After you have made it past your natural resistance, you can work up to counts of 6 to 8 seconds per breath.

Yoga Breathing Exercises
Calm your mind, sit straight and follow you natural breathing flow.

Bottom Line

You can perform any of the techniques mentioned above at any time of the day whenever you feel stressed out, overworked, or sleep-deprived. Breathing exercise rejuvenates your body to function at full capacity without tiring you out.

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