By: Alexis M.
Follow along with Alexis – Southern Flow Yoga Instructor and Wellness Coach on Instagram @asanaandacai
If you could change one thing today to improve your overall well-being, choose your breath. Deep breaths are powerful and healing, yet we can be so on-the-go constantly that we forget we are even breathing. Pause for a moment. Do you notice your breath? Close your eyes and bring your attention to it. Deepen your breath for three rounds of inhales and exhales. Then observe, how do you feel? Do you immediately feel a calming sensation? Any other effects? Let’s dive in to some benefits of breath-work and five of our favorite go-to practices!
Today, our society is chronically stressed – stressed from work, finances, responsibilities, comparison, and more. In a stressed state, you are typically breathing very shallow, from your chest, not deep in your diaphragm or lungs. Therefore, we want to share five deep breathing practices you can do any time, anywhere, to deepen your breath and experience its amazing impacts.
All deep breathing will infuse your body with more oxygen, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure and rejuvenate the nervous system. When you practice deep breathing, you shift from your sympathetic nervous system, your ‘fight or flight’ mode, to your parasympathetic nervous system, your ‘rest and digest’ mode, that allows your body to digest, repair, and heal. When you take deep breaths, you more deeply oxygenate your body and brain which promotes mental clarity and concentration, and, therefore, can even improve performance. As you can see, deep breaths can positively impact your body and mind, and that’s why we love breath-work in yoga!
In yoga, we practice different types of breathing techniques not only to restore but also to go above and beyond to stimulate a variety of effects, such as warm your body, cool your body, develop endurance, release negative emotions, exhale toxins, enhance confidence, and more. Try out these five practices highlighted below.
1. Ocean Breath
2. Alternate Nostril Breath
3. Lion’s Breath
4. Breathe of Fire
5. Cooling Breath
Ocean Breath, known as Ujjayi Pranayama:
– Perhaps the most common breath practice in yoga
– Develops endurance to hold poses longer and move from pose to pose with strength and stability
– Helps reconnect with Mother Earth as it sounds like an ocean wave or wind
How To –
1. Take a comfortable seat. Lengthen your spine tall and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
2. Take a few easy breaths in and out of your nose.
3. As you breathe, start to constrict the back of your throat in order to make a more powerful & audible inhale and exhale. It will sound like an ocean wave coming in and out with the tide (or a little like Darth Vader!).
4. Repeat for about 5 minutes, or even better continue to do throughout your yoga practice.
Alternate Nostril Breath, known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama:
– Regulates body temperature as right is heating and left is cooling
– Brings balance to masculine (right) and feminine (left) energies
– Brings balance to left (logical) and right (creative) hemispheres of the brain
– Helps clear respiratory channels & release toxins
How To –
1. Find an easy seat (criss cross apple sauce).
2. Rest your left hand on your left knee.
3. Raise your right hand. Hover your thumb over right nostril and ring finger & pinky over left nostril. Either close your pointer & middle finger or press them on your third eye.
4. Exhale completely. Close right nostril with thumb.
5. Inhale left nostril. Close left nostril with ring finger & pinky.
6. Release thumb. Exhale right nostril. Inhale right nostril. Close right nostril.
7. Release ring finger & pinky. Exhale left nostril. Inhale left nostril. Close left.
8. Exhale right. Inhale right. Close right.
9. Exhale left. Inhale left. Close left. Switch.
10. Repeat for about 5 minutes.
11. Finish with an exhale through your left nostril to complete the cycle.
12. Return to a normal breath and notice any differences.
Lion’s Breath, known as Simhasana Pranayama:
– Stimulates your throat chakra so you can confidently express your truth and release tension from any withheld communication
– Engages and strengthens the muscles in your face, jaw, and neck
– Helps you feel energized, empowered, and encouraged like a power pose
– Releases tension, toxins, and negative emotions
How To –
1. Sit in Hero’s pose, or any comfortable position.
2. Place hands on your knees, fingers spread wide, roll your shoulders back, and lean slightly forward to open your chest.
3. Inhale through your nose.
4. Exhale forcefully through your mouth, open it wide, stick out your tongue reaching it towards your chin, & make an ‘ha’ sound.
5. Repeat by sealing your lips again, inhale through your nose, and exhale powerfully like a lion.
6. Practice for about 5 minutes.
7. Return to a normal breath and observe any effects.
Breath of Fire, known as Kapalabhati Pranayama:
– Stimulates your solar plexus chakra to tap into your personal power
– Ignites your inner fire and builds heat in your body
– Exercises your respiratory muscles and strengthens your abdominal muscles
– Activates and aids in digestion and detoxification
– Develops physical endurance
How To –
Breath of Fire Tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQS4Ad-16vE
1. Take an easy seat and place hands on your knees or belly.
2. Take a big inhale and then exhale quick & powerfully multiple times like panting (you can do through your mouth or nose so feel free to experiment with both!).
3. At the end of your exhale, take another big slow inhale letting your belly expand like a balloon.
4. Pause at the top, repeat, exhale quick & powerfully pulling your belly button in to activate your abdominal muscles.
5. Practice for about 5 minutes.
6. Return to a normal breath and notice any effects.
Cooling Breath, known as Sitali or Sitkari Pranayama:
– Calm and cool your body temperature
– Great for hot yoga, high intensity, or cardio like running
How To –
1. You can sit or stand.
2. For Sitali, purse your lips into an ‘o’ shape, and if you can, roll your tongue curling the sides up like a taco shape. For Sitkari, smile wide with your teeth closed.
3. Take an inhale through your mouth’s ‘o’ shape; the air should feel cold.
4. Then, seal your lips and exhale through your nose.
5. Repeat as many times as needed until you feel cooler.
Hope you love these techniques! Stop by the studio, breathe with us, and let us know which one is your favorite! We encourage you to practice deep breathing daily. Have a beautiful day and namaste.