Updated: Nov 20
One of the first things you’ll be asked to do when you join a yoga class is to focus in on your breath. Moving from your unconscious daily breathing pattern to being aware of the quality of each breath.
Breathing is an essential part of yoga. But how should we be breathing in our yoga practice? And what makes it different to our natural breath?
In this blog we’ll explore a simple but effective breathing technique for you to use in your physical yoga practice.
Want to jump right into the practice? Follow along with my breathing for yoga follow along video.
Techniques for Breathing in Yoga
It can feel strange to begin with to bring so much focus of your attention to your breath. Since it’s something we’re always doing but almost never thinking about.
In a physical yoga practice there are three qualities to your breath that you want to focus on:
The length of your breath: Can you start to slow your breathing down and have balanced length to your inhale and exhale?
The depth of your breath: Is it possible to deepen and widen your breath so that you’re allowing your breath to expand out to your belly, ribcage and chest on the inhale? And then draw your belly slightly back, ribcage in and chest dropping down on your exhale?
The ease of your breath: This is probably the most important and most forgotten! While you’re lengthening and deepening your breath can you keep the quality of your breath light and easy without force and strain?
Now to remember all of this for every breath throughout your yoga practice is impossible and luckily not actually helpful. You want to keep some of your focus on the position of your body in the various yoga postures you’re practicing. And allow some space to not focus and concentrate so hard so that you can simply tune into your practice and how you feel.
But it can be very helpful at the beginning of your yoga practice to establish your breathing pattern of a slow, deep and easy breath. So that you can maintain the steady rhythm of your breath for the majority of your practice.
Breathing in Yoga Poses
The easiest yoga pose to focus on your breathing technique in yoga is a simple seated position allows you to create space in your torso so that your breath can be full and deep.
Since this posture is relatively simple to do you won’t have to spend so much time focusing on your posture and can therefore allow the majority of your attention to focus in on your breathing.
Once you’ve done this for 5-10 mins you should have hopefully found a regular rhythm that you can use for your yoga practice.
We have to make the conscious choice in our yoga practice, how many challenging postures we want to practice if that has a negative effect on our ability to breathe.
As a rule of thumb, the more challenging the yoga posture the more challenging it will be to breathe in that yoga posture.
Therefore, it will be normal that as you progress from comfortable seated position to more challenging and dynamic postures like Sun Salutations, standing poses, twists, backbends and balances it will be harder for you to breathe slow, steadily and effortlessly.
Breathing Exercise in Yoga
Using a simple breathing exercise in Sun Salutations can be really supportive to increase your breath capacity and establish a regular breathing pattern that you can use for the rest of your yoga practice.
To help achieve a slow, deep and easy breath you can use a simple technique known as 1-2-3-pause.
In this breathing exercise, as the name suggests, as you inhale you count in your head 1-2-3 and then take a soft pause with your breath. You then follow this with an exhale where you count, at the same pace, 1-2-3 and then find a slight pause.
The beauty of this technique is that you can pick a pace of the breath that suits your own breath capacity. And allow the pause at the top of the inhale and bottom of the exhale to find a moment of quietness and ease in each breath.
If you find that you’re out of breath or feeling tense at the pauses there’s a few things you can experiment with. Either try making the speed of your breath over the 1-2-3 slightly faster or shortening the pause so that you don’t feel a rush to take your next breath in or out.
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