You think you know how to breathe. After all, you’ve been doing it all your life. But unless you have lived in a smog-free, stressless environment, how you breathe won’t cut it on the yoga mat. Yogic breathing techniques serve to expand your lungs’ capacity and slow down your respiratory rate. Learn the Three-Part Breath before you start yoga and practice Ujjayi breathing during every pose to enhance your yoga experience.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing so your torso can expand as you learn the Three-Part Breath. Lie on your back on a yoga mat. Curve your tailbone under and let your feet flop naturally to the sides. Move your shoulders away from your ears. Make yourself as comfortable as possible so you won’t be distracted from enjoying this experience.
Place your hands palms down on your lower belly. Inhale and exhale the way you normally would a few times. Take a really big inhale and then exhale as much of the air as possible from your lungs. Place your attention on your lower belly as you start to inhale. Notice how your belly rises from your diaphragm pushing down. It does this to allow more air into your lungs. Exhale and relax for a few seconds.
Move your hands up to rest on your ribcage with your fingertips about 3 inches apart. Inhale and notice how your ribs move aside slightly to allow your lungs to expand. Exhale and as you do, cross your hands at the wrists and place them on your collarbone at the base of your throat. Inhale and feel how your breath moves up your trachea and through your throat and up to your nostrils.
Sit comfortably on a yoga mat or straight-backed chair to learn Ujjayi breathing. This technique will slow your rate of breathing in order for you to move in and out of poses without gasping and struggling for breath.
Open your mouth slightly. Inhale through your open mouth and train the air over the back of your throat. Make an audible noise that sounds like a long, hissing ah. Exhale, just as slowly through your open mouth, with a sibilant ha sound.
Practice through your open mouth for a few rounds, and then close your mouth. Inhale slowly through your nose, direct the air over your top palette and then along the back of your throat, making the same hissing sound as you did with your mouth. Reverse the process as you exhale slowly through your nostrils. Perform the Ujjayi breathing technique throughout your yoga practice.
- The Three-Part Breath can be done once as a training technique to get you used to breathing slowly and fully. Or, you can make this breath a regular part of your yoga practice, either by performing it at the beginning or end of your class.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.