A great deal of yoga revolves around breathing. Yoga would not be much effective if not for the benefits of practicing breathing.
Yoga Breathing is also called “Pranayama” which translates as, ‘To extend the vital life source.’ Breathing is the very essence of our lives, it is just right that we continuously develop and improve even the most essential thing that our body does.
Our breath sustains our life, mind, and body. Without breathing, we would cease to exist and our bodily functions would not be possible. Breathing is already great on its own. Yet, if we practice more variations, particularly, deep breathing, it can cause positive effects for your physiology and mental state.
At some point, some of us might have had an experience of difficulty in breathing, and we may not have been sure what to do to aid ourselves. It’s not a pleasant feeling, especially for those who suffer from Asthma.
In order to further improve our respiratory strength, and the entire body as well, we will teach you the amazing practice of yogic breathing, and the different ways and methods on how you can do it, and its incorporation into the aerial yoga practice.
This practice has been used for years from the time of the most ancient of yogis, to enhance their personal yoga practice, and for its calming, relaxing, and restorative benefits.
What is Yoga Breathing?
Yoga Breathing or yogic breathing, is another practice in addition to any variation of yoga out there. In yogic breathing, we incorporate various breathing patterns and practices to enhance our lung capacity and deepen ourselves in the activity.
Among the eight limbs of yoga, Pranayama, is one. Breathing has always been a vital part of the yoga practice but as time goes by, ancient yogis have discovered and developed it to enhance the beneficial effects that yoga gives.
It is so easy to incorporate without the hassle of adding too much more movements or other procedures — just breathing. Why is it called Pranayama? The Sanskrit word is easily understood when analyzed: “Prana” and “ayama”. “Prana” meaning life force and “ayana” meaning stretching. In yogic breathing, we stretch while channeling it from our own natural life force.
Since it is already incorporated to whichever variation of yoga you will choose, it is definitely not a hard thing to do. What’s more is that you get to practice multitasking but not in a stressful way. Rhythmic deep breathing will calm your mind down while the poses and fluid yoga movements will stretch your body and focus on the breath.
Although if you are not yet decided whether you will engage in yoga, yogic breathing is an independent activity and you can totally do it on its own! Yogic breathing is not just a mere addition, it can be viewed as another distinct form of yoga! This practice is also used therapeutically, especially for those in recovery from illnesses.
Yet, since you are here, we will introduce you later to a fun and easy to learn variation of yoga that will literally and figuratively take you to greater heights all at the tips of your fingers.
What are the benefits of practicing Yogic Breathing?
Did you know that these simple yoga breathing practices have so much to give?!
Among these benefits of doing yogic breathing are:
- Aids anxiety, stress, and even depression
- Helps in muscle relaxation
- Increases energy levels
- Lengthen attention span and focus
- Expand lung capacity through rhythmic breathing
- Lower or stabilize blood pressure
You do not usually realize it, but we have points in our day when we somehow forgot to breathe, and, in extension, we find it difficult to think. This may greatly affect our decision-making skills.
Whenever we ‘forget’ to breathe properly, less and less oxygen reaches our brain and when that happens, our brain functions get affected. Practicing yogic breathing will help train our body to continue breathing properly even when we are not practicing yoga! It’s more of a training, to be honest.
Which even reminds us, are you breathing well right now when you are reading this? Have you been inhaling and exhaling properly ever since you began reading this article? If you are then good but if not, then maybe you should try doing it soon.
A Great Selection of Breathing Styles
Of course, we would teach you a wide range of breathing styles and patterns that you can all try in order to find the one, or even two, that suits you the most and makes you feel good about yourself and your body.
Do not worry because even though we are to suggest these techniques, if you happen to have found or invented something of your own then it is more than fine! In yoga, it is important to always, always put yourself first.
Your preferences on what makes you feel good and what you think works best for you (but still do not disregard your trainer’s advice just because something makes you feel good). Choose what you want and work with it.
Here are a few breathing styles that you can try to start your yogic breathing journey:
1. The Hissing Breath (Siitkhara Kumbhaka)
As the name itself suggests, this breathing style will involve us making the hissing sound like that of snakes for cooling and calming. Siitkhara also works best with another breathing style that we will tackle on the next entry.
To do the hissing breath, inhale through the nose then hold your breath for eight to ten seconds then exhale through the mouth while resting your tongue at the front-upper part of your mouth and making the hissing “s-s-s” sound.
This breathing is great for purifying the senses and releasing bad energy. Continue doing this for 3-5 minutes, depending on your current capabilities.
2. The Cooling Breath (Shiitali Kumbhaka)
As we said earlier, this next breathing style works best side by side with the last style which is the hissing breath. This breathing style is one of the best choices especially if you want to wind down. Wherever you may be, this cooling breath will help calm that hot head of yours.
The cooling breath is done by folding the tongue lengthwise and then inhaling through the fold of the tongue. Hold your breath again for eight to ten seconds or shorter if you are not yet used to it. Then, exhale through the nose. Like the first one, continue doing this for 3-5 minutes or even longer, as long as you do not strain yourself.
3. Ocean’s Breath (Ujjayi)
Ocean’s Breath is another great breathing technique for calming. It may come off as complicated but once you get to do it right, it might even become one of your favorites.
To do Ujjayi, inhale a bit deeper than usual. Then, close your mouth and constrict you throat and muscles as you exhale through your nose while making ocean-like sounds. To make it a lot more defined, try making the sound “haaaaaah” as if you are yawning but with your mouth closed. As you practice further, try constricting as well when you inhale little by little for more movement in your throat area.
Although, we recommend that you do this practice only once in a while and if possible, with an instructor’s supervision because it has quite the heating effect that might affect especially those who have low blood pressure issues.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Alternate nostril breathing is probably one of the most famous breathing styles out there and there is are very good reasons for that: it is easy to do, relieving, and provides just the right amount of calming whenever you may need it.
As the name itself says, to do this, we need to alternately breathe from the right and left nostril. It might seem tricky at first, but we got you! Just follow our lead.
Cover your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale deeply and at the peak of that inhale, switch the covered nostril by using your left thumb to cover the left nostril and then exhale through the right. Practice this slowly first before incorporating it into practice because movements in yoga might cause you to unintentionally poke inside your nose and hurt yourself.
Make sure that you are breathing easily and not with so much effort: just breathe. Practice this for 3-5 minutes until you feel better. This particular breathing technique is also taught alongside an advanced practice where you also chant mantras. It is quite a complicated version and you can surely do it in the near future with continuous practice.
5. The Solar Breath (Surya Bhedana)
Since we had already given you some cooling breathing techniques, this next one would focus on warming. It is also quite similar to the alternate nostril breathing and the only difference would be its pacing and time.
Again, just like the previous breathing style, cover your right nostril with your right thumb and then inhale deeply. Once at peak, switch the covered nostril using your other thumb and then exhale.
Here comes the difference: do this only at a maximum of six breaths every ten minutes meaning it is slow-paced and once you are done with the six breaths, you have to rest for the remaining time before deciding if you want to do it again. This version may be a lighter take on the original alternate nostril breathing, which is great if you are finding the former one difficult.
6. The Lunar Breath (Chandra Bhedana)
If we have solar breath, then we also have a counterpart: lunar breath! This next breathing style is a cooling one and is best recommended for those who are struggling with stress, anxiety and depression since it is very calming to the body.
Lunar breath is done by inhaling through the left nostril and then exhaling through the right. Do this for 6-10 times before switching to the other side. Chandra Bhedana is great if you feel like there are a lot of things piling up and you want to gather yourself up again. It is also great whenever your mind feels like it is in a haywire and is in need of some detangling and straightening up.
7. Active Yoga Breathing
Now, this last breathing style that we will teach you is the easiest and simplest of all the breathing styles that you can find and learn. Active yoga breathing is the best way to start your way to yogic breathing, but we put this in last so you got to try the more dynamic and creative ones first.
To do this, simply inhale and exhale slowly, deeply, and in control as you walk at a pace that is easy on you. Just take your time simply walking, breathing, and enjoying the wonderful things that your body gives you.
Yogic Breathing and Aerial Yoga
Surely, some of you might be quite intimidated whenever they hear about aerial yoga and to be honest, it could be quite a large boulder to conquer but with the right push, motivation, equipment, and of course, people, it is definitely a challenge worth braving on!
Aerial Yoga could prove to be a challenging activity since it involves defying gravity as you do yoga poses whilst mid-air.
By using aerial yoga hammocks or yoga swings in which you mount yourself onto, you can elevate your floor yoga practice, quite literally, and then adding in the yoga breathing, you will certainly be flying!
Swing yoga and the yoga breathing might sound too much and too hard to do, but trust us when we say that the benefits that you will reap in this practice outweighs the doubts you have right now!
To better ease your way into both of these practices, do one alone before the other. For example, you can do yoga breathing before and after you do your aerial yoga routine.
By continuously practicing your breathing, you would not even notice that you are already applying it while you are executing your aerial yoga asanas. Breathe well, stretch well, and live well now!