Our first connection to the world was a strong, life giving breath. We can easily forget that it leads everything we do.
Although our body naturally breathes we benefit even more by doing it with intention.
Mindful Pranayama or breath control brings you back to the present, makes you feel calm and content, improves your lung function and capacity, fuels your immune response, gives you a greater quality of sleep, and improves concentration.
Here are some quick reference breath exercises to supplement a yoga practice or bring wellbeing into your life.
Simple Counting Technique
Often used before starting meditation to calm the mind and slow down breathing. Inhale smoothly to the natural end of inhale, then exhale smoothly to the end of the exhale – consider this a count of 1. Inhale and exhale again – considering it a count of 2. Continue this pattern of slow counting to help mind and body settle.
If you unravelled all the intricate vessels in the lungs and spread them out before you they would equal the size of a tennis court. Use this breath to get oxygen circulating to the far reaches of those lungs, to every corner, capillary and air sac. Repeat each of the following three times or as desired.
- Laying down or seated, place the hands on the belly as a guide and ‘fill’ the belly with each breath, allowing it rise and fall
- Now place your hands gently on your rib cage and breathe into the middle of the chest, expanding the ribs out sideways
- Next place your hands on your upper chest and breath into the highest part of the torso, mindfully completing each inhale and exhale to the full without forcing
- Once you have done the above, you are ready to try all three– relax your hands on your lap and breath mindfully into the belly, the ribs, then the chest so your torso lightly balloons. Then release the breath back out of each area to exhale.
Bees Breath (Bhramari)
Sitting in a comfortable position, place your thumbs over your ears and your first two fingers (pointer and middle) over your eyes. Or choose to practice without this mudra and relax the hands.
Draw a silky breath in through the nose, relax your throat, and then steadily exhale while releasing one long, continual humming sound. Really feel the vibration through your tongue, mouth, sinuses and head as you hum with serene steadiness. Repeat for six breaths or more until you emerge trance-like and supremely relaxed.
This practice is useful in many scenarios, so keep it in your back pocket for when you need it!
Simply conduct a mindful inhale by counting to four, then exhale counting to four. Continue this pattern. When you feel ready, increase the count to five. Then six. Do not speed up counting breaths will naturally lengthen with each release of tension.
Ocean Breath (Ujjayi)
Use this breath when you can in your yoga practice to support you in difficult poses or when you need centering, ideally guided by a teacher. You will sense when it works for you naturally.
Slightly close the throat and inhale and exhale using an audible hissing sound as breath escapes (similar to when a weight lifter lifts, or when you fog a mirror). Let the breath be long and smooth, and it will stabilize and secure you. Alternatively, sit quietly and practice this breath by balancing inhales and exhales, like the tide going in and out on the shore.
*Always consult a medical professional first before undertaking any exercise or breath exercises if you have any medical issues or concerns.
About Tiff Cameron
Tiff is a yoga teacher and wellness practitioner with a passion for self-healing. Her blogs are based on a combination of personal experience, research and coursework. For a list of references for this blog please contact email@example.com.