How Yogic Breathing Can Help You On & Off The MatBy WanderfulSoul |Comments: 1 | June 16, 2017
Breathing is essential to yoga. In all types of yoga, sessions can begin with breathing exercises. The popular, Pranayama yoga, is even based entirely around yogic breathing. Achieving meditation through yoga places a high importance on mindful breathing.
Outside of yoga, we know that breath is essential but don’t tend to focus on it. It is a reflex, something that can be done without thought. Among the medical community, however, it is recognized that how you breathe matters. The practice of mindful breathing has a direct impact on your mind and body.
Practicing yogic breathing techniques can help you control stress & anxiety, combat low energy, cool you down, warm you up, even help you beat the common cold.
How Yogic Breathing Lowers Stress
Yogic breathing has an immediate impact on lowering the symptoms of stress, while helping your body to overcome the source of stress internally. The stress lowering effects of yogic breathing include:
- Reduced Anxiety
- Reduced Blood Pressure
- Muscle Relaxation
- Increased Sense of Calm
How to Reduce Stress Through Yoga Breathing Exercises
The first step to reducing stress is to counteract the symptoms. Leaving the symptoms unchecked can cause the body and mind to become more stressed. Practicing yogic breathing exercises has an immediate impact on relieving the symptoms of stress.
Learning to identify stress is a core component to overcoming it. When you feel stress your body responds with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This effect releases hormones like adrenaline raises your blood pressure and pulse. Your breaths become short and shallow, coming from the chest instead of the lungs.
Reversing Stress Symptoms
Deep yoga breathing exercises, such as complete belly breath, reverse stress symptoms effectively. Deep breathing techniques stimulate the vagus nerve, which counteracts the fight-or-flight response.
Blood pressure is stabilized, heart rate lowers, you are able to take deep, full breaths using your lungs and diaphragm. This calms you down and helps to improve blood flow throughout the body.
Yoga breathing is effective against both physical and emotional stress. It can be used to help make clear-headed decisions or to get through difficult situations.
Yoga Breathing for Energy
Some days, you feel a little sluggish. It’s okay, it happens to all of us. Maybe you had a late night, restless sleep, or maybe this day just feels a bit too blah. One of the best tools to beat out this low energy is yogic breathing.
Replace the old, stale air in your body with deep mindful breaths of fresh, invigorating oxygen. This helps to improve blood flow, circulation, and stimulates the mind. By breathing deeply with the diaphragm you improve the exchange of oxygen in your body. This makes you more alert and clear, and even helps improve digestion.
Breath of Fire Technique For Energy
One of our favourite yoga breathing techniques for energy is the Breath of Fire (Kapalbhati). It brings energy to your body, oxygen to your blood & brain, and improves your lung and respiratory functionality.
It is performed by using your breath to pull the abdomen towards the diaphragm on the exhale, and pushing the abdomen out during the inhale. This is done quickly – 2 to 3 times per second. The breaths are forceful and loud, and you should be exhaling as much as you are inhaling.
This is often performed in intervals. Using the Breath of Fire for 30-45 seconds and then doing 30 seconds of deep, long breaths. As you improve you may be able to do perform the technique for as long as three minutes straight.
Yoga Breathing Can Cool You Down
Yoga breathing can be used to help cool you down. It can be effective on a hot summer’s day, being out in the sun at a luxury yoga retreat, during a hot flash, or after vigorous exercise.
Cooling yoga breathing techniques add moisture to your system and cool the body. One of our favourite exercises for this is Sitali.
How to Cool Down With The Sitali Breathing Technique
To perform the Sitali breathing exercise sit with your head, neck, and spine aligned. Start with mindful diaphragm breathing, open your mouth in an ‘O’ shape. Curl your tongue and stick it about ¾” out of your mouth. If you can’t curl your tongue, bite your tongue lightly.
Inhale to breathe deeply through the tongue, like a straw, and focus on the cooling sensation as the air goes through your system. Exhale through your nostrils with your mouth closed.
Yogic Breathing Can Warm You Up
Mindful breathing practices can help to regulate your body’s temperature. At Lake Louise’s mountainside yoga retreat in Canada, this can be a great way to start your routine. In the summertime you can use this breathing to warm you when the office a/c is running too cold.
One of our favourite warming yogic breathing exercises is Ujjayi Breath. This technique comes from Asana yoga and helps to warm your whole body from your core.
How to Warm Your Body With Ujjayi Breath
The Ujjayi Breath technique is performed by creating a slight constriction in the back of your throat. You breathe slowly through your nose, pulling air through the constriction in your throat. Focus on the friction as the warm air passes the constricted throat, heating it up and bringing warmth deep into your core.
To increase internal heat, combine with movement to help the warmth run through the rest of the body. To warm further, you can then transition to Lion’s Breath. The inhale technique is the same, but on the exhale you breathe out through the mouth with a loud ‘HAH’ sound.
Prevent or Relieve The Common Cold Through Yogic Breathing
Tightness of breath, sinus congestion, sore throat, and feeling run down, having a cold puts a damper on your day. Next time you feel the symptoms of a cold coming on, consider taking a moment to stop and breathe. Yogic breathing can be used to alleviate cold symptoms or even prevent them from turning into a full blown cold.
Practicing yoga breathing techniques helps open stuffed up nasal passages, maintain a consistent body temperature, increase blood flow, stamina & energy. One of the best breathing exercises to relieve cold symptoms is Alternate Nostril Breathing.
How to Cure The Cold Through Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
While it is not a complete cure, Alternate Nostril Breathing provides serious relief. To perform this exercise you alternate between your thumb closing the right nostril, and the bottom two fingers to close the left. Inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other.
Example. Close the left nostril and inhale through your right. Close your right nostril, exhale through your left. Inhale through your left nostril and close. Exhale through your right. Inhale right and close. Exhale left. Continuing with this flow for at least 8 rounds.
Repeat this technique until you start to feel the nasal tract clear up. It also helps to regulate your body temperature, wake you up, and improve blood flow. From detoxing to cold symptom relief, yogic breathing helps your body recover.