5 Key Breathing Techniques
As one of my teachers said, there is no correct way to breath, but there are alot of incorrect ways. Here are some of the recommendations from our lineage and practice that we find useful to refine your breathing during asana, pranayama or meditation…
1 Breathing through the Nose (Nasanapana)
Air inhaled through the nose is both warmed and made moist at the same time. Breathing through the nose filters the air before it enters the body. Allergens, bacteria, viruses, etc. are filtered out of the body through the turbinates and other parts of the inside of the nose. Breathing through the nose protects an individual’s oral health. When inhaling through the mouth, the gums, tongue, and oral cavity become dried out, causing excess acids in the mouth. A moisturized mouth remains healthier for the long term. Breathing through the nose helps facial muscles and bones develop correctly and helps develop straight teeth. When the mouth is closed, the tongue is in the proper position to help the jaw grow correctly, and teeth emerge in the right places. And the key benefit is that breathing through the nose also regulates the amount of air that comes into the body. Breathing through the nose allows the body to take in the proper amount of oxygen for the body’s needs. Try it throughout your entire practice and your whole day.
2 Victory Breath aka Ocean Breath (Ujjayi)
To practice the technique, exhale making a loud whispering “ahh” sound over the throat as if you are fogging a pair of glasses. Avoid straining, tensing the throat or jaw, or pursing the lips. Keep the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind and above the top teeth, which is known as manduki mudra (frog mudra). Then, place the hands over the ears while making the ocean sound over the throat. Continue with ujjayi breathing throughout the entire class, and whenever you need calming and focusing energy throughout your day.
3 Make Exhales Longer than Inhales (Visamavritti)
When holding poses, make each exhale slightly longer than the inhale. Start with a count of 4 on inhale and 6 on exhale, working your way up to 4:8 or 4:10 which is more advanced. Notice the nerves calm and a deep centering taking place. Use the asana actions of contracting lower abs and drawing navel to spine (uddiyana) to accentuate the exhale. Feel mulabandha (root connection) develop as a result. When flowing from pose to pose or in the Sun Salutation sequence, use a ratio of 1:1 making inhales and exhales the same length. When holding poses, make the exhales longer. Feel the body and mind becoming cool and collected.
4 Eliminate Gaps between the Breaths (Nirantara)
When breathing smooth and deep, eliminate any gaps between the breaths. Allow the exhale to flow into the inhale, and the inhale into the exhale without a gap, pause, or hold. At first, it feels challenging but after a few moments, you’ll get the hang of it.
5 Continuous Refinement (Kaizen)
Make each breath smooth, deep, fluid, calm, absorptive, thin, liquid-like, refreshing and nourishing. Treat each breath as new, unique and original. Kaizen is Japanese meaning “continuous refinement”. You can never step in the same river twice. Namaste