Before doing YTT, i never encountered so many breathing techniques even though i have practiced yoga for years. And often we hear instructors repeating “keep breathing” “breath deeply”. Breathing, or what is called Pranayama in Yoga is a vital element in asana practice.
Some basic rules are: exhale when fold forward, twisting or when the body goes out of the center. Inhale when the body is in the center. Exception is back ward bend where you inhale while going down. I personally find this very usually doing twisting asanas, ie. Marichiyasana C or D in Ashtanga. Every inhale i try to come back a bit for lengthening spine and exhale i can twist deeper.
Here are 2 of my favorite breathing techniques that i practice regularly:
- Kapalbhati- passive inhale and forceful exhale. Exhales are generated by powerful contractions of the lower belly (between the pubis and navel), which push air out of the lungs. Inhales are responses to the release of this contraction, which sucks air back into the lungs (Yoga Journal, 2017). The important thing here is to isolate the lower belly contraction which many of us can’t control at the beginning. Place a palm on the lower belly and gently press it during exhalation helps to find the feeling. 20-30 cycles per time and as we improve, the pace of the breathing cycle can be increased. Kapalbhati is good for morning practice or before yoga practice to warm up the body and activate the circulation of the energy.
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing and Breath hold)- we can either do left-left or right-right breathing. Using right thumb to close right nostril and right ring finger to close left nostril through the whole practice. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it , breath retention, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand mudra and go back to normal breathing (Yoga Journal, 2007). This is a great breathing practice to reduce stress and anxiety. Practice left-left before bed time and cooling down the body. Practice right-right during day time or before/after exercise to gently warm up the body.
During this difficult time, let’s take advantage of breathing and breath it right to benefit our physical and mental healthiness.