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Pranayama is not just a beautiful word; it can also deliver powerful mind and body benefits in yoga. Comprised of two Sanskrit words, prana meaning universal life force energy, and yama meaning regulation, this collection of breathing exercises translates to deliberate breath control.

Breathwork in yoga is much more than a technique. Physically, it supports the respiratory organs and blood pressure while it also calms the mind to promote relaxation and mindfulness. But yoga breathing has so many other great benefits. It can help you:

      • Stay present during your practice
      • Settle the body
      • Release tension
      • Move deeper into poses

Yoga breathing is a purposeful process that can include many different styles and lengths, depending on your practice goals. The first step begins with learning how to properly inhale and exhale.

Proper Inhaling

On a proper inhale, the front body will expand, opening the chest up and out. The diaphragm, the major respiratory muscle that sits just below the lungs, will contract and your belly will expand as your air fills with lungs.

Proper Exhaling

On exhalation, the body will move inward and the lungs will shrink back as the diaphragm relaxes. Pressure in the lungs will increase, and you push the air out of the lungs.

When to Inhale and Exhale During Yoga Poses

As a general rule, you can apply these guidelines to breathing during your practice.

Whenever a pose opens up the front of the body, creating space, you inhale. When a pose closes or contracts the body, you are exhaling.

Basic Pranayama Techniques to Get Started

Belly Breathing (Yogic Breath) This is the first breathing technique you might learn in yoga. It refers to slow, deep breathing from the diaphragm.

Complete Breath (Dirga Pranayama) A three-part breath technique is also a good starting place for beginners to strengthen and expand their lung capacity through diaphragmatic breathing.

Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) This is an audible breath that creates a “haaa” sound as you exhale. If you feel angry, irritated, or frustrated, this technique is both calming and invigorating.

Equal Breath (Sama Vritti Pranayama) Another basic breath, this technique focuses on keeping your inhales and exhales the same length to help balance and relax the body.

Buzzing Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama) Another beginner-friendly breath that uses sound to help block out distractions and calm the nervous system.

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