If you’ve been feeling stressed out lately, implementing some breathing techniques in and out of your regular yoga sessions can be extremely beneficial. Yoga is known for creating a calming and relaxing environment, which can aid in fighting back on those intrusive thoughts.
With so many prevalent stressors in our modern-day lives, it’s not uncommon to experience a rise in anxiety. Also, with the weather getting colder, the sun no longer being in the sky as long, you may find yourself having less time to enjoy the outdoors, leaving you feeling unmotivated and unable to get as much daily exercise in.
In yoga, we practise many breathing techniques which not only avoid us getting injured, allow us to think inwardly and reflect on ourselves. In this article, we will be looking at how to regulate your breathing when practising yoga and our top recommended breathing techniques that you can use on and off the mat.
Regulating your breathing in Yoga
Learning how to regulate your breathing in and out of yoga can be very advantageous, especially if you suffer from anxiety. To start experimenting with regulating your breathing, simply lie flat on your back against a firm flat surface or a yoga mat. Place something under your neck, like a pillow, to support your neck and head and begin breathing slowly. Study the flow of your breathing pattern and aim to have smooth transitions between breaths. Continue this until you feel calm and relaxed, allowing your body to rest after.
Consciously paying attention to your breathing pattern and changing it is an extremely powerful tool to have. This practise can send a signal to your brain and adjust the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system.
The parasympathetic branch is responsible for modulating the visceral organs, primarily in your chest, such as your heart, lungs and abdomen. Regulating your breathing can slow your heart rate down and will help you feel more at ease.
Another division of the nervous system that will be positively affected by this practise is the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of releasing the stress hormones you produce. The body can have involuntary responses to difficult situations and this part of your system is in charge of sending out the correct reaction.
Three Breathing Techniques We Recommend Trying
As we've said above, learning how to control your breathing pattern has lots of benefits. If you suffer from anxiety, or even panic attacks, this could be a very useful tool for daily life. The practise of yoga is known to be calming, using many breathing techniques to relax the mind and allow you to think more clearly. Here are some of our favourite breathing techniques which we recommend you trying:
1. Victorious Breath or Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)
The breathing technique ‘Ujjayi Pranayama’ is one of the most common breathing techniques in the yoga world. The Sanskrit term ‘Ujjayi’ translates to victory, which is where it’s other name ‘Victorious Breath’ originated from. You may also hear this technique go by the name of ‘Ocean Breath’. This is because it can be compared to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees or even waves crashing on the shore.
To successfully use this technique, simply close your mouth and constrict your through to the point that your breathing sounds like a rushing noise. Then proceed to control your breathing using your diaphragm whilst keeping your inhales and exhales equal. This basic diaphragmatic breathing pattern engages the flow of udana.
The flow of udana is the upward movement of your breathing. This is the direct flow of prana and helps you reach the lower to higher planes of consciousness. The technique enables each one of your exhalations to be long, full, deep and overall controlled.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Alternate nostril breathing is another typical breathing practice that will leave you feeling calm.
Unlike the Victorious Breath, this technique focuses on your nasal passages. Inhale deeply through your left nostril and hold your right one close with your right thumb. As you reach the highest point of your breath, switch nostrils by closing off your left and continuing to exhale through your right nostril. After exhaling fully, proceed to inhale through the right nostril again, closing it off when you are reaching the end of your breath.
Practise this method for 3-5 minutes each time as long as your breathing remains effortless and you are feeling the calming effort.
3. Skull Shining Breath (Kapalbhati Pranayama)
If you are having anxious or racing thoughts, practising the Skull Shining Breath technique could be great to increase your overall concentration and clear your mind. The term ‘Kapal’ translates to skull and ‘Bhati’, means to shine, which is where this famous breathing technique got its name.
Place yourself on a flat surface (or yoga mat) and position your back with your spine fully upright. Proceed to take a full, deep breath through your nose. As you exhale, pull your stomach towards you, in the direction of your spine. Repeat again, but this time, exhaling quickly through your nasal passage and relaxing your stomach muscles as you do so.