Let’s take a look at the different ways to incorporate different types of pranayama into your yoga practice.
Breathing is so important when practising yoga. Pranayama is the practice of breathing to clear the physical and emotional blockades in your body, which frees the breath and allows your energy to flow.
It’s a form of breath regulation and comes from the Sanskrit ‘prana’, meaning life energy, and ‘yama’, meaning control. Pranayama has a number of incredible benefits and can be practised in a number of different ways.
Let’s take a look at five amazing types of pranayama you need to know to enhance your yoga practice.
5. Quiet breathing – relaxing your energy channels naturally
The first type of pranayama we will look at is eupnea, or quiet breathing. This type of breathwork requires no control.
This is usually the state of breathing you will naturally take up when in the final position of any asana. It’s the most natural and relaxed state of breathing you can do.
Quiet breathing is essential in any yoga practice. It slows the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, calms the body and mind, and creates a feeling of stability in your body.
To best practice quiet breathing, you can sit in a comfortable position, stand with your palms flat facing out, or in a reclining asana.
4. Kapalabhati Pranayama (skull-shining breath) – make full use of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles
This is one of the amazing types of pranayama as well as a cleansing technique. This practice is said to clear the mucus from the air passages, reduce bloating, and improve lung capacity.
This is a wonderful technique for anyone who wishes to practice yoga daily and improve their breathing techniques.
When you start to master Kapalabhati, you will notice the heat you feel flowing through and filling your body.
To do it, you must sit in a comfortable position, sit up straight, and exhale completely. Then, inhale through both nostrils and exhale a sharp breath from your nose.
While exhaling, you will be pulling your belly button toward your spine. The exhale is short, fast, and active, while the inhale is short but passive.
To do this practice effectively, start with one round of 30, lowering to 15 if this feels strenuous. The best time to practice is in the morning or when you feel cold.
3. Nadi Shodhana or Anuloma Viloma (alternative nostril breathing) – an amazing alternate nostril breathing technique
Nadi Shodhana is a very relaxed and balanced form of pranayama used to help relax the nervous system and help yogis get a better night’s sleep.
When taking in more oxygen into the body in this practice, it is believed that the breath can purify the blood, calm the mind, promote concentration, and reduce stress.
This type of breathwork is best practised sitting or lying down. To begin, empty all the air from your lungs. Then, with the thumb of your dominant hand, cover your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril only.
Top tip: ensure you inhale into your stomach, not your chest. Then, when your belly is full of breath, cover your left nostril with your ring finger of the same hand, with your right nostril still closed, and hold your breath.
You will then release your thumb and breathe out through your right nostril only. Exhale all the air out before inhaling again through the same side.
For beginners, you can do a four-second inhale, four to eight counts holding, and then exhale for four seconds.
This a calm, soothing practice that can be done at any time of the day. It’s handy when you’re having trouble sleeping or feeling stressed.
2. Ujjayi pranayama (victorious breath) – deep breaths, clear mind
In yoga, this breath is often referred to as ‘ocean breath’, thanks to the sound one creates when doing it. You will be familiar with this breathing technique if you have ever practised asana, especially ashtanga and vinyasa flows.
To practice the ujjayi breath, find a comfortable seat with a straight spine. Take a steady, easy breath in through both nostrils until you reach your lung capacity, all while maintaining a tall spine.
Hold the breath for a second, and then constrict some of the breath at the back of your throat, and exhale slowly through your nostrils again.
Practice this a few times, and you will see why it gets called ‘ocean breath’. Try this breathwork with an asana practice as well.
1. Sitali Pranayama (cooling breath) – an amazing pranayama practice
This is one of the amazing types of pranayama that clears the heat from your body and cools you down. As such, it is particularly helpful during the summer and in hotter climates.
To practice, roll your tongue until the outer edges touch, making a tube in your mouth. If you can’t roll your tongue, make a circle shape with your mouth, holding your tongue flat.
Inhale through your mouth, taking in all the air you can. Once you have inhaled, bring the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and close your lips.
You will feel the coolness of the inhalation in your mouth. Then, exhale through your nose. Repeat this as many times as needed.
Other notable mentions
Health benefits of pranayama: There are numerous benefits, including advanced breath control, lung function, cognitive functions, cardiovascular health, and so much more.
Surya bhedana pranayama: Surya bhedana pranayama is a warming breath that focuses on one nostril.
Bhramari pranayama: Also known as ‘humming bee breath’, this breathwork is practised by putting both index fingers shallowly in the ear canal, breathing in through your nose, and out through your nose while making a humming sound.
Viloma pranayama: This is a great way to draw focus, as this practice involves interrupted breathing.
FAQs about pranayama breathing
What is pranayama breathing?
Pranayama breathing involves controlling your breath with different techniques.
Where does it come from?
Pranayama is a pillar of Buddhism and Hinduism and has been practised for thousands of years. It has deep roots in yogic practice.
How should I sit?
Depending on the practice, you can either sit up straight with your legs crossed, upright in a comfortable seat, stand, or lie down.