Yoga Breathing Exercises: Benefits and How to Practice Them

Ciara Byrne

Breath is life. We should pay as much attention to it as any other aspect of beingness.” – Swami Nostradamus Virato, yoga teacher

Yoga is not just a physical practice, it is the state of mind, a philosophy, and a teacher of the body, mind, and soul. Its very meaning is “to bring together into union” and it's about finding a way to reconcile mind and the body, what is often seen as the opposites. It can take you to extraordinary journeys in self-exploration, both internally and externally. But, in its practical sense, yoga is a great way to boost your body’s strength and immune system. And it does it very easily - by breathing. Let’s see how.

Breathing (Properly) Is Hot!

The way you breathe can tell a lot about the way you think, and the way you think is reflected back in the way you breathe. To put this into perspective, if your breath is shallow and fast, you're most certainly under stress. On the contrary, when you are relaxed, your breathing becomes deeper and slower. As a result, breathing is what causes the energy shifts and what helps bring focus and relaxation (or stress) to the body.

How pranayamas, or yoga breathing exercises, can make changes to your body is actually very simple - by balancing your inhales and exhales, you provide more oxygen in your blood and activate the parts of your nervous system - the parasympathetic nervous system - whose role is to keep your body relaxed and steady, leaving out potential health problems related to stress. Therefore, something as simple as breathing can be essential when it comes to your health and vitality.

The important thing is that you can easily learn these practices by yourself or by enrolling in yoga schools and workshops. In the end, maybe this can motivate you to join yoga teacher training and help others reach the same goal.

Simple Pranayamas That Will Boost Your Health

The very meaning of the word PRANAYAM is derived from the words Prana, which signifies ‘life force’, and Ayama which stands for ‘to work on it’.

In Yoga teaching, breath is a vital source of energy and essential for vitality, health, and body functioning. And knowing how deep and proper breathing helps the immunity in fighting the inflammation, and the mind in reaching relaxation, no wonder why the whole philosophy is centered around it.

Luckily you don’t have to know all of the upside-down positions or do headstands (just yet!) to see many health benefits that come from practicing Yoga, as here are two very effective, yet very simple exercises you can add to your daily routine. The best thing is that they take only a couple of minutes a day.

Bhramari Pranayama: The Humming Bee Breathing Technique

The exercise got its name after the bee-like humming sound you produce while doing it, since ‘Bhramari’ in Sanskrit means bee. This sound creates soft vibrations which stimulate the forehead. All you need to do is:

  • Find a comfortable position to sit in. Your shoulders and facial muscles should be relaxed, and your head, neck, and spine straight.
  • Place your pointer fingers slightly above the eyebrows, and your thumbs on your auricles to block the ears.
  • Close your eyes and cover them up with the middle, ring, and little fingers, also using them to put gentle pressure on the sides of your nostrils.
  • With your ears blocked, bring the concentration to the area between your eyebrows and take a deep breath at the same time.
  • While keeping your mouth closed, exhale slowly through your nose, humming the sound of Om. You can repeat this exercise even for up to 20 minutes.

The benefits are many, as it reduces stress and anxiety, improves sexuality, boosts concentration, and stimulates the production of melatonin, among many other things.

Anuloma Viloma Pranayama: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing technique is very beneficial to bring dynamic to your respiratory system and keep both of your nostrils balanced and equally active. The exercise is very simple:

  • Find a comfortable place and sit crossing your legs. Put your left hand on the same knee while lifting your right hand up toward your nose. Exhale completely and use your right thumb to close the right nostril.
  • Inhale once through your left nasal opening and then close it with your fingers while opening the right nostril for the exhalation. When you finish, inhale through the right opening and then close it again, only to open the left one for the exhalation.
  • This is one inhalation/exhalation cycle that you can continue to repeat for up to 5 minutes.

This exercise lowers your stress level and improves cardiovascular functioning, helps lungs functioning and respiratory endurance, lowers the heart rate, and enhances well-being.

Conclusion

With the fast pace of life, a busy daily routine, and a lot of responsibilities on the plate, it is easy for a person to get lost and forget about the importance of the simple things in life. And nothing is more simple, yet more important than breathing itself.

In the end, knowing how to breathe is a lot more than using your respiratory system, but knowing how to use it properly in order to bring benefits to your body, mind, soul, and health. Hope that these simple pranayamas will help you improve your health.

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