When you’re taking a yoga class, your lungs will probably feel like they’re being squeezed by an invisible octopus. After all, you’re lying on your back with your arms out to the side, legs stretched wide and the whole class is spent trying to relax the muscles in your abdomen.
Try as you might, it just doesn’t feel natural breathing like this. But if it feels that weird when you practice yoga at home, imagine how unnatural it is during a formal class!
So why does breathing so naturally seem so unnatural during yoga? We don’t know much about the science of breathing in yoga poses beyond what we already know about normal healthy respiration. There are some theories about certain types of breathing helping to reduce tension or activate certain organs (like the diaphragm), but most teachers and students can breathe freely in yoga without worrying too much about it.
The benefits of proper yoga breathing
Breathing is an important and critical aspect of yoga practice. By learning how to breathe deeply and fully, you will be able to calm your mind, center your body, and connect with your soul.
Opening up the breath can help lower anxiety levels, increase focus, improve mood, and reduce stress. You’ll be more present in class if you’re taking a deep inhalation of air every time you exhale.
How to improve your yoga breath
First, try to be aware of how you’re breathing. Are your shoulders and chest rising? Are you drawing in air from the top of your chest? Is it easy to inhale?
Exhale slowly by pursing your lips and gently blowing out through your nose. If you can’t quite master this, just practice until you can feel the difference.
Next, remember that yoga is all about a balance between what you do and what you don’t do. If a pose feels hard or uncomfortable, take a moment to breathe deeply into your stomach and let go of any tension there. This will help your body find its balance again and make it easier to keep up with the demands of the work without straining yourself too much.
Finally, if a pose is still feeling tough after trying these things, remember that yoga is a mindful practice where we are supposed to be conscious of our actions. Rather than giving up on a pose just because it makes you nervous or uncomfortable, try using it as an opportunity for introspection.
For example, take note of how tight or tense an area feels during certain poses–areas like your neck may feel tight when you first start doing headstands–and use that information as an opportunity to explore how stress might be contributing to those symptoms during the rest of your day at work or home (e.g., by reminding yourself before bed that not only did your neck feel tight today but you were also anxious about something.). These moments in yoga can translate to the rest of your life, though the class may end, the learning can always continue!
The difference between yoga breathing and regular breathing
At first glance, it might seem that the two types of breathing are similar. When you’re practicing yoga, you breathe through your nose and focus on long deep breaths in and out. This can be compared to normal breathing by focusing on inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds.
The difference is that in regular breathing, the diaphragm does all the work while in yoga practices (aside from a few exceptions), you use your abdominal muscles to help contract the lungs. This can be compared to abdominal crunches – they have a different function than normal crunches but they’re not necessarily more difficult than traditional abdominal exercises.
As with most things related to yoga asana practice, the answer is probably somewhere in-between these two thoughts. Breathing through your nose only happens during pranayama (breathing exercises) because this helps get oxygen into the system faster and more effectively than when you breathe through your mouth. We don’t know exactly why it works, but we do know that this type of breathing has been shown to help relieve anxiety, which makes sense given how many other health benefits there are associated with breathing techniques like pranayama!
How to use your breath during yoga
Remember that yoga is based on breathing, so it’s important to know how to breathe properly when you’re in a yoga class. If you practice at home and find that your breath is too shallow, don’t worry–you can still do some of the exercises, just with more focus on inhaling and exhaling fully.
Most yoga poses require an inhalation to calm the nerves before they are able to enter the pose and then an exhalation after they are stable in place. You should also try focusing on the breaths during your practice. When you inhale, feel how your body expands and note any sensations of tension or tightness. When you exhale, focus on relaxing those same muscles or feeling a release of tension–whichever option feels best for you!
How to control your breath during yoga
The key to breathing in yoga is controlling your breath. That doesn’t mean that you need to be hyper-focused on it like a marathon runner, but rather that you should be conscious of how your body feels and what’s going on inside of you.
It’s about monitoring the amount of air going in or out of your lungs and being aware of what happens to them when they expand or contract. It will also help you not to hold your breath because doing that can cause dizziness and make you light-headed.
If you find yourself holding in a big gulp of air while practicing a pose, try contracting the muscles around your ribs instead so that you’re forced to rely on your diaphragm more.
When trying to get the most out of this breath control, try inhaling through your nose, exhaling through your mouth, focusing on just one part at a time (like the chest), and exhaling slowly so that it goes out evenly through all parts of your body. With practice, it will become second nature for you and you won’t even think about it anymore!
The importance of breath in yoga
So does the importance of breathing in yoga mean that you can get away with breathing normally during a class? Not necessarily. There is a difference between normal breathing and proper breathing, and when it comes to yoga, you want to make sure you’re keeping that important distinction in mind.
Proper breath means taking deep breaths that stimulate the diaphragm while maintaining abdominal stability. It also means exhaling through pursed lips while contracting the abs, drawing air into your torso.
How to make your yoga breathing more efficient
If you’re having a hard time breathing in yoga, try these tips to make your breathing more efficient:
-Synchronize your breath with the movement of your limbs. If you feel like you have to fight for every inhale, take a deep breath and then exhale as the movement changes.
-Try not to hold your breath at any point during a posture.
-Use visualization and muscle relaxation to help yourself breathe deeper during poses.
-Breathing is one of the best forms of meditation, so if you can’t focus on something else, think about how you’re breathing.
Different types of yoga breathing
The best way to learn how to breathe in yoga is by watching your teacher and other yogis. There are three different types of breathing during a yoga class: fanned out, deep, and abdominal.
Fanned out breathing occurs when you exhale with your mouth open wide. This way, the breath is felt more on the side of the face where it’s coming from.
Deep breathing occurs when you inhale deeply into the diaphragm or abdomen while exhaling slowly through pursed lips (like blowing up a balloon).
Abdominal breathing happens when you inhale deeply into the lower belly while also pushing air out of your mouth in a fast flow (like blowing a stream of bubbles).
All three types of breathing can be seen in a yoga pose like the Downward Facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), but each type is used for different purposes than the others. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles of breathing!
How to troubleshoot common yoga breathing problems
If you’re not breathing well during a yoga class, there are two main causes. One is that your muscles aren’t relaxing fast enough. If you’ve been practicing for years and never had problems with your breathing, it can be hard to relax your muscles. But the best way to improve this is to learn how to breathe properly from the start.
The other cause is that you might not be able to breathe deeply enough in some poses. Maybe you aren’t doing a pose with enough air, or maybe your chest isn’t open wide enough to take in as much air as you need. The good news is that these problems can usually be fixed by changing the position of the body or adjusting your breathing pattern.
Breath is a huge part of the yoga practice and mastering it can take years. However, practice is part of mastery, and practicing the different types of breathing that yoga demands will be nothing but a benefit to your health and wellness forever!