How to Breathe in Yoga

Updated on July 8, 2020
LilianeNajm profile image

Certified to teach Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Pilates; ongoing YogaU Online Yoga & Wellness Educator professional training. I love to write.

Mindful Breathing Leads to a Deeper Meditation

Source

It is common knowledge that breathing in a deep and mindful way calms the mind and body, reduces stress and anxiety, promotes full and complete breathing, increases oxygen supply to the blood, helps keep the lungs healthy, releases muscular tension, and prepares for a deeper meditation.

Yogic Breathing or Pranayama, is the basis of yoga practice. It begins with deepening our breathing with the three-part breath, then moves into more advanced breathing techniques such as Kapalabhati and Nadi Sodhana also known as the Alternate Nostril Breath.

When do we inhale and exhale during yoga practice? It is a consistent practice. We exhale when we bend forward like in the head to toe pose, or when we twist our body. We inhale when we do a pose that lifts or opens the chest like in the cobra or upward dog poses.

Belly-breathing, chest-breathing, or three-part breathing? The approach to breathing in yoga is affected by gender, age, fitness level, and medical conditions if any.

The influence of breathing on yoga poses and the other way around is the work of the breathing diaphragm muscle. The diaphragm is a thin skeletal muscle located at the base of the chest and separates the abdomen from the chest. It contracts and flattens when you inhale, which pulls air into the lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the air is pushed out of the lungs.

We exhale when we bend forward like in the head to toe pose, or when we twist our body. We inhale when we do a pose that lifts or opens the chest like in the cobra or upward dog pose.

Breathing in a Prone Pose

Cobra
Cobra | Source

The Cobra pose is a reclining back-bending asana. It is said that this pose gives your abdomen a good stretch and reduces stubborn belly fat. It helps in strengthening the upper body by building a more flexible, stronger spine.

Cobra Pose – Instructions

  1. Lie down on the floor with your chest down and your back up.
  2. Join your arms behind your back by grasping your forearms or elbows, or place your hands in the standard Cobra position close to your chest.
  3. Squeeze the muscles from the hips to the toes and use the neck and deep back muscles to lift the head, neck and chest as high as you can.
  4. Now, breathe in and out deeply through the nose, and notice that each inhalation raises the upper body higher, and each exhalation lowers it as you keep the back muscles engaged continuously.
  5. During inhalation and exhalation, the lifting and lowering actions are due entirely to the breathing muscles.

In this pose, as you breathe in, the diaphragm works to reinforce the activity of the deep back and neck muscles and so deepens the back bend. As you breathe out, the muscle fibers of the diaphragms lengthen away from the center as they resist the gravity.

When they finally relax at the end of exhalation, the back bend in the spine is supported only by the deep muscles of the back and neck. This strengthens the diaphragm because after you have lifted as much as you can with the deep back muscles, you use the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles to raise the upper half of the body even higher. This is a sizable mass to be lifted by a single sheet of muscle acting as the prime mover.

Breathing in a Supine Position

In a supine position, you lie on your back with your face and torso facing up.

Fish Pose

The fish pose is a reclining back-bending pose. It is useful for people who work a lot on computers. Spending a lot of time typing at a keyboard drags the shoulder girdle forward when typing. Doing the fish pose helps to actively spread the ribs, stretch the intercostal muscles, and open the front rib cage.

Supported Fish Pose – Instructions

  1. Place a bolster or block under your shoulder blades.
  2. Place a folded blanket under the back of your head
  3. Arch back over the block so that you trap your shoulder blades, pinning them against your back ribs
  4. The block must be placed directly under your shoulder blades and catches their lower margin.
  5. Your head extends back and your neck will have a gentle arch. If your neck feels compressed, raise your head more by placing a small pillow under it.
  6. Use the block to lift and spread your ribs, collarbones and the sternum. Let the weight of your shoulders sink into the block under your shoulder blades.
  7. Extend your arms out to the sides.
  8. If it feels comfortable, stretch your arms directly over your head toward the floor.
  9. Hold this pose for a minimum of 30 seconds up to 2 to 3 minutes.
  10. To come out, push your elbows into the floor and come up sitting.

Avoid putting too much emphasis on expanding the front chest wall to avoid any excessive demand on the heart.

Downward Dog pose
Downward Dog pose | Source

Breathing in Downward Dog

Breathing in the Downward Dog pose is not the same as breathing in forward bending poses. Downward Dog is a partly inverted pose where the diaphragm draws air into the lungs while pushing the abdominal organs up toward the ceiling when we breathe in. When we breathe out, the diaphragm resists the drop of the abdominal organs to the floor.

The weight of the abdominal organs against the lower side of the diaphragm causes the yoga practitioner to exhale more completely.

Beginners who form a relaxed round in this pose, rather than an inverted V with a taut abdomen, keep their bellies relaxed while breathing from the abdomen. Breathing in this way simply pushes the abdomen out when they breathe in, and relaxes it when they breathe out. This kind of breathing is not useful in this pose.

More advanced yoga practitioners have a different experience in this pose. They press into an upturned V while holding the lumbar lordosis is. The arch in the spine creates a back-bending pose, overlaid on 90-120 degrees of hip flexion. When intermediate to advanced practitioners are simultaneously working consciously with the breath, the result is diaphragm-assisted back-bending.

To experience this, come into Downward Dog while keeping the lumbar lordosis integral and lifting high up on your toes if needed. Come completely into the pose putting emphasis on the acute angle between the pelvis and the thighs and breathe in deeply. You will immediately notice that the diaphragm is a great influence in assisting this work.

Child pose
Child pose | Source

Breathing in the Child Pose

In the Child pose, the body is doubled over itself. Inhaling increases tension all over the torso, and exhaling decreases it.

In addition to drawing air into the lungs, inhaling presses against the abdominal organs that are resistant to compression; that is the reason we feel a sense of increased tension. Exhaling is also active, or should be, because we are breathing evenly, and smooth breathing requires that we do not exhale with a hissing sound.

Deep Yogic Breathing

Deep yogic breathing has a calming effect on the mind, and accelerates the elimination of impurities from the blood. It brings more oxygen to the brain and revitalizes the endocrine system.

  1. Lie on your back, separate your legs, and tuck the chin in slightly which will elongate the neck.
  2. Place your right hand on your abdomen covering the navel and monitor your breathing.
  3. Start counting the number of seconds needed for your hand to move up as you inhale and move down as you exhale - this is the natural rhythm of your breath.
  4. Now, place your thumbs under your armpits and spread your fingers wide apart covering a large number of ribs.
  5. Inhale deep through the nose sending the air from the abdomen to your rib cage - notice how your ribs separate and fills up with air.
  6. Exhale through the nose and feel how your abdomen goes down first through your rib cage.
  7. REPEAT A FEW TIMES.
  8. Now place your left hand on your collar bone and your right hand on your abdomen.
  9. Breathe and feel how when you inhale, the air fills your lungs like a wave rippling from your abdomen to your rib cage and to your chest.
  10. Observe this full breathing for a while.
  11. Now exhale slowly through the nose to the count of 8; watch the air going out.
  12. Inhale slowly to the count of 8.
  13. Exhale slowly to the count of 8.
  14. Keep your attention on the rippling movements of the air.

Notice the calming effect of this breathing. Frustration and fatigue leave you during the exhalation, and peace and detachment come with each inhalation.

You can practice the deep yogic breathing at your desk, in front of an open window, or while waiting in line.

BONUS: Smooth Breathing

Smooth breathing is one of the most important skills in yoga. When we are relaxed and breathing from the nose and the abdomen, it is easy to breathe in, and transition smoothly into breathing out.

A slight pause happens naturally between the inhalation and the exhalation. Let the pause happen but start breathing in again consciously as soon as the exhalation ends. In a prolonged pause between the inhale and the exhale, the diaphragm would have relaxed completely and your next in-breath might start with a jerk, which you want to avoid.

Caution: Yoga oral tradition advises against pausing or stopping the breath consistently after breathing out. Regularly stopping the breath at the end of the exhale could cause heart problems. If it happens naturally then that is fine, but do not make a habit of it.

Using a Sandbag

If you place at sandbag of about 3 to 15 pounds on your upper abdomen just below the rib case, you will notice the added pressure required to breathe in and control breathing out.

The chest should not move and the sandbag should be light so you can push it easily upward in the direction of the ceiling. This use of the sandbag is helpful to train and strengthen as it helps to be more in touch with the activity of the diaphragm by increasing the pressure required for the in-breath and to control the out-breath.


Reference: Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by H David Coulter.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, caloriebee.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)