Breathing Techniques (Pranayama)

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Breathing Exercises have an enormous amount of benefits in preparing the mind for meditation and improving health. This may also be used as a meditation technique, for we are focused only on the breath. Practicing these exercises calms the nervous system and helps to control reactions such as anger, anxiety, and much more.

See below for step by step instructions for the different breathing techniques.


1. Dirgha Breath
“Three Part Breath”

In this breath exercise, we focus on the three chambers of the lungs:
1 – Lower abdominal
2 – Middle chest
3 – Upper chest/shoulders

1) Inhale through 1st chamber, second, then up to the third chamber.

2) Exhale from the 3rd chamber, down to the second, then to the first chamber.

3) Place hands on chambers to feel the body fill up and empty with each breath.

4) Repeat 4x, then return to neutral breathing.

• Increases lung capacity
• Helps to stop irregular breathing problems
• Strengthens the core
• Calms the mind, body
• Great to perform before and after a yoga practice



2. Ujjayi Breath
“Ocean Sounding Breath”

1) Inhale slightly deeper than normal.

2) Exhale (with mouth closed) through nose, gently constricting throat muscles.

3) Inhale with throat constricted, exhale with throat constricted.

4) Ujjayi is often referred to as the “Ocean Sounding” breath, for the throat produces an ocean-like sound. This exercise is also known as “Darth Vader” breath.

• Regulates heating of the body
• Improves concentration
• Releases tension
• Lowers blood pressure


3. Nadi Shodhana Breath
“Alternate Nostril Breathing”

1) Place pointer and middle finger between eyebrows.

2) Close right nostril with right thumb, then inhale through left nostril.

3) Close left nostril with ring and pinky finger, exhale through right nostril.

4) Inhale right nostril, close the right nostril and release the left, then exhale through left nostril.

5) This is one set. Perform 4 or more with deep, effortless breathing.
Tip: Use right thumb and ring and pinky finger to open and close nostrils when alternating the breath.

• Regulates airflow through nasal passages
• Soothes nervous system
• Relaxes the mind
• Balances the right and left side of the brain (see below)
• Balances the hot/cold, the activated/relaxed aspects of ourselves (see below)

The Sides Of The Brain

There are two sides to our brains – the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere.

The two sides relate to our logical (left) and emotional (right) sides of our personality. The hot and the cold, the activated and relaxed aspects of ourselves. Practicing Nadhi Shodhana helps to regulate the airflow through our system, creating balance between the two hemispheres.

When practicing Nadhi Shodhana, one nostril will be more ‘clear’ than the other. This will change between nostrils every 2 hours. If this does not change, then you may be getting allergies or the common cold.

If the left nostril is more clear, this means the right brain is more activated.
If the right nostril is more clear, this means the left brain is more activated.

The left brain involves our critical thinking, analyzing, memorizing, problem solving, controlling.
For example: An accountant may have a more active left brain.

The right brain involves our artistic abilities, intuition, creativity, making sense of what we see.
For example: An artist may have a more active right brain.

Some have very strong characteristics of each side of the brain, whereas some meet in the middle. We are all different in this aspect. With practice of Nadhi Shodhana, one becomes balanced, calm, and focused on the present moment.



4. Sitali Breath
“Cooling Breath”

1) Curl the tongue lengthwise, then slightly project it out of the mouth.

2) Inhale deeply across the tongue. Focus on the cooling sensation of the breath.

3) Continue for 2-3 minutes.

• Cools the mind and body temperature
• Reduces tension and high blood pressure
• Detoxifies the body
• Brings forth concentration
• Known to control hot flashes

Tip: If unable to curl tongue in Sitali, the breath exercise known as Sitkari may work better for you.



5. Sitkari Breath
“Serpent Breath”

1) Gently press lower and upper teeth together.

2) Separate lips to expose teeth to air and inhale through gaps of teeth.

3) Focus on the hissing sound, then close mouth and exhale through nose.

4) Repeat 15-20 times.

• Relaxes the mind and body
• Soothes nervous system
• Reduces anger and frustration
• Helps control hunger, thirst and laziness



6. Bhramari Breath
“Bumble Bee Breath”

1) Press index fingers on the cartilage between cheek and ear.

2) Exhale while making a humming sound, sounding almost like a bumblebee.

3) Inhale, release the fingers from cartilage.

4) Exhale with a hum, pressing fingers on cartilage. Then inhale, release. Repeat 7 more times.

• Reduces blood pressure, anxiety, restlessness, migrains
• Increases metabolism
• Helps with insomnia



*For exclusive instructional breathing exercise videos, become a member of Gates To Yoga here *

Categories: Breathing Techniques

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