6 Transformative Breathing Exercises for Yoga

by | Apr 29, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When practicing yoga, it’s easy to get caught up in perfecting every pose—so much so that you forget to breathe! While poses (known as asanas) are certainly a cornerstone of yoga, breath is the foundation of the entire practice. It supports your movement and acts as a guide, drawing you back to the present moment.

The practice of breath regulation during yoga is called pranayama. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control. Pranayama involves consciously adopting specific breathing patterns to support your yoga practice. 

In this article, we’ll explore why breathing is such an essential part of yoga and share six yogic breathing exercises that can support you on or off the mat. 


The Importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing 

Yoga translates to “union” or “yoke” in English—it’s the union (or yoking) of mind and body. During a yoga session, your breath acts as a bridge between your mind and body, uniting the two.

Each breath helps you achieve your poses, release tension, focus on the present moment, and form a deeper mind-body connection. 

Yogic breathing techniques are not only useful on the mat, but they can also benefit your physical and mental well-being when going about your daily activities. Research shows that diaphragmatic breathing can reduce stress, soothe anxiety, improve focus, and support important physiological processes, such as circulation and digestion.[*][*]

These positive benefits occur because lengthening exhalation relative to inhalation increases the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system (which controls your rest-and-digest response) while decreasing the activity of your sympathetic nervous system (which controls your fight-or-flight response). 


Breathing Exercises for Yoga 

Whether you’re looking to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing on or off the mat, here are six transformative yoga breathing techniques to try.

1.    Basic Breath Awareness 

Basic breath awareness is the foundation of all yogic breathing. It’s about becoming aware of your breath and noticing its characteristics. This exercise requires zero breath manipulation on your part.

How to practice:

  1. Breathe in and out naturally without trying to control it.
  2. Bring your attention to your breath. 
  3. Observe how it sounds, feels, and behaves. 
  4. Practice this for 3-5 minutes, or longer if you’d like.


2.    Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath)

Known for producing a sound resembling ocean waves, this breathing exercise is used to stimulate the relaxation response, support movement from one posture to the next, and increase oxygen consumption.   

How to practice:

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose. 
  2. Exhale through your mouth while slightly contracting the back of your throat. Imagine you are trying to fog up a mirror in front of you.
  3. Once you’re comfortable with the exhale, apply the same throat contraction to your inhales. 
  4. When you’re able to control the throat on both the inhale and exhale, close the mouth and begin breathing only through the nose. Continue applying the same constriction to the back of your throat.
  5. Use this technique throughout your yoga practice or whenever you need some soothing.  


3.    Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate-Nostril Breathing)

In Sanskrit, “Nadi” means “nerves” and “Shodhana” means “cleaning” or “purification.” Living up to its name, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, has been shown to be a powerful technique for balancing the autonomic nervous system.[*

How to practice:

  1. Raise your hand to your nose as if you were going to pinch your nose shut with your thumb and pointer fingers.  
  2. Exhale fully and then close your right nostril with your thumb. 
  3. Inhale through your left nostril. 
  4. Open your right nostril and exhale through it while closing your left nostril with your pointer finger. 
  5. Continue this rotation for five minutes. 


4.    Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath Retention)

Defined by short periods of holding your breath, this exercise is highly effective for reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. 

How to practice:

  1. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds.
  2. Hold the air inside your lungs for ten seconds. 
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth. 
  4. Repeat this process 4-5 times, or as long as you’d like.


5. Bhramari Pranayama (Bumblebee Breath)

This breathing technique is named after a type of black Indian bee due to the bee-like buzzing sound produced during the exhale. It’s an effective tool for getting stress, anxiety, agitation, and tension to buzz off.

How to practice:

  1. Keeping your lips tightly sealed, inhale through your nose.
  2. Exhale through your nose, making the sound of the letter M (a humming sound).
  3. Continue the sound until you need to inhale.
  4.  Repeat as long as needed.


6. Diaphragmatic Breathing with Somnox 

If you feel like you could use some extra guidance in establishing a relaxing, yoga-inspired breathing pattern, look no further than Somnox 2. Through robotic technology, this science-backed device expands and deflates as if it’s taking deep, diaphragmatic belly breaths

By simply holding Somnox, you’ll unconsciously adopt the same slower-paced breathing rhythm. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your nerves and helps you feel more at ease. 

Somnox can be used to induce relaxation at any time, whether during the day or before bed. 

How to use:

  1. Hold Somnox 2 and turn it on. Within minutes, you’ll subconsciously adopt its calm breathing pattern.
  2. Smart sensors respond to your breathing in real-time, matching your rhythm and gradually adjusting it to the ideal rate.
  3.  Feel your nerves relax and tension release. 
  4. If you’re using it for sleep, continue deeply breathing until you fall asleep. With the help of Somnox 2, you’re sure to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rested.

Take our online sleep test to determine if Somnox is right for you. 


A Final Word on Breathing Exercises for Yoga

Apart from sustaining life, breathing is a powerful tool for regulating your autonomic nervous system. Your breathing pattern can influence how you feel and perform, both mentally and physically. 

Even better? Your breath is always available to you, no matter what you’re doing or where you are. Whether you practice these breathing exercises on your yoga mat, in traffic, or before sleep, you’re sure to notice the tremendous impact they have on your well-being.


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