Yogic breathing exercises. Learn these beneficial techniques.

Many ancient traditions have been using breathing exercises for thousands of years as a tool to improve health and wellbeing. Breathing exercises also serve to calm the mind and purify the body.

Meditation is often practiced after breathing exercises due to their calming effect on the mind, preparing it for meditation.

You may wish to get a friend to read these exercises out to you or record your own voice.

Abdominal Breathing

  • Lie on your back and relax your body.
  • Really let go and allow gravity to support you as you enjoy the stillness of simply lying down.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose and feel your abdomen rise as you inhale, breathing in slowly and deeply, then let your abdomen come down as you exhale slowly with control. Be aware of the movement of your abdomen as you continue this deep breathing.
  • As you inhale visualise energy, vitality and positivity filling your body, going to every single cell.As you exhale, gather up any tension, tiredness and negativity and breathe them out of your body.
  • Take at least 10 of these slow deep breaths, focusing your mind on the movement of the abdomen.

Abdominal Breathing With Nostril Awareness

  • Inhale deeply and slowly through your nostrils.
  • Bring awareness to the feeling of the breath coming into your nostrils as you inhale.
  • Feel the breath moving down into your lungs.
  • Feel the abdomen rise as you inhale deeply.
  • Exhale, feeling your abdomen sinking back down as you slowly breathe all the air out.
  • Be aware of the breath as it leaves your body through the nostrils.
  • Do at least 10 of these deep breaths.
  • Keep your mind focused on the breathing.


Full Yogic Breathing

  • Start by taking a few deep breaths as above.
  • Now place your right hand on your abdomen over your navel area and your left hand further up on your chest.
  • Take a deep inhalation and feel your abdomen rise up (having your hands placed on the body helps you bring awareness to the movement of the breath)
  • Keep inhaling and feel your chest start to rise, fill your lungs as much as you can. You’ll feel the top hand rising with the movement of the chest.
  • Keep inhaling all the way up to the collarbone, completely filling your lungs.
  • Exhale deeply and slowly, starting by focusing on the movement of your chest. Be aware of your chest coming down, feel the movement of your chest as you exhale.
  • Keep exhaling and then feel your abdomen come down, finally exhaling the last bit of air using the diaphragm.
  • Become aware of the movement of the diaphragm as you squeeze the last bit of air out.
  • Inhale, abdomen, chest, all the way up to your collarbone.
  • Exhale, chest, abdomen, all the way out using the diaphragm.
  • Counting slowly to 8 for each inhalation and exhalation should be a good measure of a deep breath.
  • Once you are happy with the full yogic breath lying down, you may try it sitting in a crossed-legged position with the hands resting gently on the knees.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (anuloma viloma)

  • Sitting cross-legged rest your left hand on your left knee.
  • Tuck the first 2 fingers of your right hand down – you’re going to use the right thumb to block off the right nostril and the right ring-finger to block off the left (the first 2 fingers are tucked away to make space for the nose).
  • Inhale deeply through both nostrils, place the right thumb on the right nostril and exhale through the left – exhale for 4 seconds.
  • Inhale through the left nostril to the count of 4 seconds.
  • Block off the left nostril with the ring finger and release the breath through the right nostril for 4 seconds.
  • Inhale right 4 seconds, block right nostril with the thumb.
  • Exhale left 4 seconds.
  • Continue this for a couple of minutes.

….Now for the more advanced breathing…
It will be as above but you will be inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 16 seconds and exhaling for a count of 8 seconds. Exhale very slowly to reach 8….

Alternate Nostril Breathing (anuloma viloma) With Retention

  • Inhale through both nostrils.
  • Place the right thumb on the right nostril.
  • Exhale through the left for 8 seconds.
  • Inhale left 4 seconds.
  • Block both nostrils and hold breath for 16 seconds.
  • Release thumb from right nostril and exhale right 8 seconds.
  • Inhale right 4 seconds.
  • Block both nostrils and hold breath for 16 seconds.
  • Exhale left 8 seconds.
  • Inhale left 4.
  • Hold 16.
  • Exhale right 8.
  • Inhale right 4.
  • Hold 16.
  • Exhale left 8.
  • Repeat for 3-5 rounds.

The above breathing exercises can be practiced alone, or better still, in a yoga class. It’s a good idea to have initial guidance from a teacher to enable you to master the exercises. Look for a yoga class that includes breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. In yogic terminology, these breathing exercises are referred to as pranayama.


Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.

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