No matter if you’re just starting yoga or are a more advanced practitioner you’ll know that breathing is an essential part of yoga. However, just like starting anything new, it can feel a bit intimidating as a beginner to know how to get started with pranayama and breathing in yoga.
In this blog we’ll be exploring one of the most simplest pranayama techniques for beginners where you focus on having a longer exhale than your inhale. This is an essential breathing exercise in yoga that can help support you breathing in yoga poses and be a great starting point to starting a pranayama practice.
You can be guided through this simple breathing exercise on YouTube and once you learn it practice it at home when and as you need it.
Yoga Breathing Technique: Inhale for 4 and Exhale for 6
Key Principles of this Pranayama
For this breathing technique we’re going to be counting our inhale and exhale with a focus on extending the exhale. We’ll be doing this with a ratio of 2:3 so that our inhale is still long but there is more attention on lengthening the exhale.
Like the majority of pranayama practices, you want to breathe in and out of your nose. And keep allowing each breath to be smooth and easy (i.e. without strain).
Since everyone has a different breath capacity you might choose to count slightly faster or slower than another practitioner so that you can focus on lengthening your breath that still feels comfortable.
For this reason it’s helpful to practice without guidance once you’ve learnt the basic technique.
Finding the Right Posture
The most important thing is to find a posture that feels comfortable for at least 5 – 10 minutes so that you can focus in on your breathing.
Typically for all pranayama and breathing exercises the best recommended posture is sitting crossed legged on the floor or sitting upright in a chair. That way you can create space in your upper body and stay alert throughout the practice.
Sometimes it can be interesting to vary your positions and try this pranayama lying down with the body. This has the benefit of being a more relaxed posture for the body but can also make you feel drowsy.
How to Practice this Breathing Exercise in 10 Minutes
Once you’ve found your chosen position start by taking a few slow and steady breaths. Then begin on your next inhale to breathe in for a count of 4 and on your exhale to breathe out for a count of 6.
To begin with you might need to experiment with the speed of your counting until you find a tempo that feels slightly extended to your natural breath but also comfortable.
Repeat for around 15 – 30 rounds. And once you finish continue to sit for at least a few easy rounds where you allow your breath to return to its natural rhythm.
Considerations for Starting Pranayama Techniques for Beginners
“Pranayama is easy to learn, hard to master”. – Matthew Sweeney
One of the biggest differences between learning pranayama techniques compared to yoga postures that many of them are easy to learn. However, it still takes a long time of practicing them to really internalize the breathing exercise and develop the practice.
Therefore, it can be very helpful when starting pranayama to begin with one simple technique and practice that regularly for a period of time. You might try for example practicing twice a week this pranayama at the start or end of your physical yoga practice and one time as a stand-alone practice.
If you continue focusing on this same technique for a longer period of time (e.g. 1 – 6 months) you’ll start to observe how your breathing might vary from day-to-day and how it changes over a longer time period.
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