These 9 Yogic Breathing Techniques Improve Mental Focus, Reduce Anxiety, and Improve Lung Capacity
The simple act of breathing is something we often take for granted, since our body’s nervous system automatically takes care of that for us. We can go about our day without ever having to tell our body to “breathe.” But for thousands of years, the ancient yogic tradition has used mindful breath work to calm the mind, increase mental focus, and improve concentration. Called pranayama, yogic breathing techniques can actually improve your life, from helping to calm feelings of stress and anxiety, to oxygenating your blood and giving you better sleep.
You can also practice this type of yoga to build greater lung capacity.
What Is Yogic Breathing?
Yogic breath work focuses on mindfully breathing in and out while incorporating prescribed techniques that are meant to garner a certain effect. For example, the techniques used in the “humming bee” breath are specifically designed to help you relax and ease tension.
There are many types of breathing exercises in the yogic tradition that have been practiced for hundreds of years, all for the purpose of gaining self-awareness and enlightenment. In our hectic modern-day lives, regular practice of pranayama breathing benefits us by lightening our mental load, balancing our chakras, and giving us a dose of inner peace whenever we need it.
9 Yogic Breathing Exercises You Can Try At Home
In my Yoga Sangrachna classes at MyYogaTeacher, I like to teach the following 9 yogic breathing techniques. You can start by practicing one or more of these exercises in the comfort of your own home.
1. Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is one of the best yoga breathing exercises for anxiety. And it’s a great way to calm your mind and body if you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or feeling panicked.
First, exhale completely. Then place your right index finger onto your right nostril, and breathe deeply in through the left. Alternate and place your thumb over your left nostril, and exhale through your right. Continue alternating, repeating at least 10 times.
2. Ujjayi or Ocean’s Breath
If you’ve been feeling depressed, Ocean’s Breath offers a quick way to help yourself get unstuck.
Breathe in through your mouth, and as you exhale, pull in your chin and so that your throat is somewhat constricted, and then deliberately and mindfully inhale and exhale through your nose. Repeat at least 5 to 10 times.
3. Shitali Pranayama or Cooling Breath
When things get heated — either emotionally, or when summer temperatures are at their hottest — you can practice Shitali to cool down.
Roll your tongue into an “o” shape and slowly breathe in through it — as if your tongue were a straw. Hold the inhale for several seconds, then exhale through your nose. Repeat.
4. Sitkari Pranayama or Hissing Breath
Sitkari is another yogic breathing technique that can help you cool down and calm your nerves.
Close your mouth but open your lips as if you were smiling. Breath in through your teeth, and attune your mind to the hissing sound of your breath. Exhale through your nose. Repeat.
5. Brahmari or Humming Bee Breath
The humming bee breath is an effective method to use if you want to relax and release tension from your body.
Possibly the simplest yogic breathing exercise, simply inhale deep into the bottom of your lungs and make an audible humming sound as you exhale.
6. Bhastrika or Bellows Breath
Bhastrika pranayama can be used to reduce stress and tension. And it generates a lot of heat which can help your body burn calories.
Sit in lotus position and inhale through your nose. When you exhale, force it out through your belly as if your abdomen were a “bellows.” Do this vigorously for 10 breaths, after which take a long inhale, hold the breath, and then slowly exhale.
7. Surya Bhedana or Solar Breath
Another yogic nose breathing exercise that brings a lot of heat into the body is Surya Bhedana. This pranayama aids your digestive system and gives your parasympathetic nervous system a boost.
Sit comfortably and using the ring finger of your right hand, close your left nostril. Then, breathe in and out through your right nostril only. Repeat 10-20 times. When you are finished, remove your hand from your left nostril and allow yourself to breathe normally.
8. Viloma Pranayama or Against the Wave
This is a wonderful yogic breathing exercise to try if you’re working to increase your lung capacity and oxygenate your blood.
Lie down in a comfortable position and thoughtfully inhale for a couple of seconds. Breathe in again, and again, until you feel like your entirety of your lungs are filled. Slowly exhale. Repeat for five minutes.
9. Active Yogic Breathing
One of the best ways you can increase mental focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase your lung capacity is to practice active yoga breathing on a daily basis.
All you have to do is mindfully practice breathing deeply and evenly throughout your day, especially when you’re active.
When you’re out walking, gardening, or just going to the park, pay attention to your breath.
Try walking 5 to 10 steps as you inhale, and then exhaling over your next 5 to 10 steps.
Through incorporating these yogic breathing exercises into your life, you can bring more serenity, self-awareness, and peace to your every day.
Bodhi Abhishek Singh has been practicing yoga and meditation for 14 years and teaching for 5 years. He earned a Masters in Science in Yoga and Consciousness from Svyasa Bangalore and has over 500 hours in teacher training. At MyYogaTeacher, he teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa, Kundalini, Meditation, Pranayama, and Yoga Sangrachna, and assists in teaching the 200-Hour Teacher Certification program. He currently resides in Rishikesh, India (aka the yoga capital of the world).