Yogic Breathing

Breathing is an essential component of yoga. Unlike many other forms of exercise, it’s not unusual to have a portion of your yoga class strictly dedicated to breathing. Here’s more about some basic yoga breathing techniques and how these breathing styles stack up against Pilates breathing.

Take a Seat.

woman sitting with the soles of the feet together, breathing

Take a comfortable seat. This can mean that your legs are crossed, or you’re sitting up against a wall, or sitting on a blanket, or lying down. Truly, what ever is most comfortable for you today, do that. However, for this sake of brevity in my description, I’m going to imagine that everyone is sitting.

Feel your SITs bones reach down into the floor and, as they do, feel the energy run from the floor, through your spine, up through the top of your head. Take some nice, easy, deep breaths.

Now, we’re going to shut down our eyes and begin ujjayi breathing.

Ujjayi Breathing

Inhale through the nose, allowing the air to move to the back of the throat. To me, this feels like a gargle of air. Now, exhale through the nose. The mouth stays closed the entire time unless you are having problems breathing through your nose. If that is the case, you may breathe in and out through your mouth, again, keeping the gargle of air at the back of the throat. This is called “ocean breathing.”

It is likely that if you are practicing ujjayi breathing, your breath will not be audible to anyone but yourself. To me, it sounds like I’m one step away from snoring. It’s that deep, throaty noise that indicates ultimate rest and relaxation.

In fact, I use this breath to put my little one to sleep. Since he was a baby, I have used this trick. I hold him so that his head is on my chest, and I take a couple of breaths to relax myself. Then, I begin ujjayi breathing. I relax, he relaxes, and in a very short time, he is also breathing ujjayi breath. He may not always be asleep right then, but I can feel his energy shift as he relaxes and prepares for sleep. What better endorsement for a relaxation technique is there?!

Metered Breathing

Another very powerful breathing technique is metered breathing. We will keep our ujjayi breathing style and inhale for a count of 4. Then, hold for a count of 1, neither inhaling nor exhaling. Now, exhale for a count of 6. After the lungs have been emptied, hold for a count of 2. Repeat this cycle. After practicing breathing, you will notice your are much calmer, more relaxed, and even more energetic and focused.

Here is a video to give you a visual. Please note, that I specifically try to say different things in my video from what I have written here.

Pilates Breathing vs. Yogic Breathing

While doing Pilates or yoga, it is important to breathe. Both Pilates and yogic breathing encourage expansion of the lungs and ribs for a deep, full breath. In Pilates or yoga group classes, the instructor should periodically be cueing breathing. In both types of movement, the breath is used to help you challenge yourself and endure through the exercises or poses you are doing.

Although they do have some things in common, there is a significant difference between Pilates and yogic breathing. Pilates breath works to activate the transverse abdominis lightly on each exhale. Yogic breath works to achieve focus, relaxation, and clarity. Yoga gives more attention to breath work, often incorporating it in the beginning and the end of a class. In an hour and a half class, it would not be unusual to have spent around 10 minutes or more practicing breath work.

In these busy times, when we are rushing from one thing to the next, find moments where you can shut yourself down temporarily and work on breathing. Practice before you get out of bed, when you’re brushing your teeth, or even when you’re stopped at a stoplight. What are you finding out when you practice? Please comment below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.