Introduction: Just Breathe

The questions most frequently asked in my yoga classes pertain to breathing. I could finish the year writing blogs about different breathing exercises and techniques. This post is general and may not apply in all circumstances. I will go deeper (or not) depending on your email and comments.

The main thing is to just breathe. I see it all the time, and many times students don’t even realize they are holding their breath. It takes time and practice to learn where to inhale and exhale, but eventually connecting the breath with movement will become natural – so don’t worry about it. And, please, don’t let breathing (or not) stop you from practicing. Keep at it!

General Principles

As a general rule, you inhale up and exhale down. Inhalation allows you to find length and exhalation allows you to find twists. Inhale to be stable, tall and grounded. Exhale to deepen the pose you are in (Sinking Breath) or to transition into a new pose. Remember that each person’s inhale and exhale is unique and will last for differing amounts of time. Largely this is based on aerobic fitness and the level of relaxation. Your exhale may take 6 seconds, and my exhale may be 3 seconds. The point is to be aware of your body and move at your breath rate – not mine or your neighbor’s. This is also a huge part of yoga: self awareness, letting go of competition and being in the present.

Another important note: if possible, breathe in and out of your nose throughout your yoga practice. There are times when a lion’s breath (opened mouth) or a puppy’s breath (panting) is needed to expel the carbon dioxide allowing more oxygen in.

Why is Breathing Important?

Beyond yoga, the simple act of breathing can work wonders for your health. This NPR article is only one of many examples.

In yoga, different types of breath create different sensations. Here are just a few examples:

  • 3-Part breath or Belly breathing emphasizes calming and relaxation

  • Sinking breath is used in folding the body naturally – exhaling out and releasing

  • Expanding breath opens the body

  • Equal ratio breathing balances the volume and flow of air

  • Retention of breath increases the level of concentration – if we control our breath, we control distractions of the mind

  • Alternating Nostril breath has a balancing effect on the mind, body connection

  • Warming Single Nostril Breathing brings energy

  • Cooling Single Nostril Breathing calms

  • Breath of Fire stimulates the nervous system and clears the respiratory system

  • Whisper Breath (Ujjayi Breath or Darth Vader breath) retains heat, Allows one to self-monitor breath and helps focus attention.

Again, if you want more specifics or a more in depth blog on any (or all) of these, give me that feedback, and I will work on it.


When you find yourself tensing up, just breathe, relax and enjoy your yoga journey!

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