Yoga,  Yoga Breathing Techniques (Pranayama)

The Importance Of Breath In Yoga

More than how deep you go in the yoga postures, the essence of yoga lies in the breath. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Get to know your breathing intimately. It is better even than your best friend, know that your breath will always be there for you as you move through life.


Yoga And Breathing

Good breathing is reassuring, soothing, and healing. It will bring your postures alive. Reconnecting with your natural breath will bring feelings of cleansing, lightness, and clarity. Holding the breath dulls awareness, creates tension, and impedes the feeling of flowing freedom that yoga brings to the body and mind.

Conscious breathing within each posture keeps the mind alert and lets your practice be exploratory rather than routine. Conscious breathing with each posture will draw your mind to the present moment. Distractions are minimized once the mind is reined in and it becomes easier to find the essence of yoga – mastery of the mind and re-connection with yourself.

As your breathing becomes more conscious, you will find it a useful tool to measure your proficiency in a posture. Once your breath stays steady, your asana practice moves closer to perfection. Let your breath be round and smooth during your yoga practice.

Should the breath cease to flow naturally and become jagged, jerky or forced, take it as a sign to ease off on the intensity of your practice. Incorporate Warming Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) into your posture work. A warming breath is one that stokes the internal fire and warms the system. The steady, pleasant sound of warming breath provides a point of focus for the mind and prevents it from dancing away.


Ujjayi Pranayama Technique

Use Ujjayi ‘Warming Breath’ breathing throughout your yoga postures practice. Ujjayi means victorious, or expanding. In this pranayama, the breath is kept high up in the chest, rather than being allowed down into the abdomen. The chest is therefore puffed up, hence the name.

Another key characteristic of Warming Breath is the soft sound produced by the air in the throat, and it is possible that Ujjayi comes from the word Ujjapi which means “pronounced aloud.” This sound is produced by partially closing the glottis so that a soft hissing noise is heard during inhalation and exhalation.

This noise is felt as a slight contraction of the throat and helps regulate the flow of air. In Warming Breath (Ujjayi) as in most other forms of pranayama, the mouth is kept closed and breathing is done through the nose. This pranayama is very energizing.


Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits

Ujjayi Pranayama is both energizing and relaxing as it sends fresh oxygen throughout the body. When practiced correctly it will create internal heat and give you an uplifting boost of energy. It is also used to increase the flow of prana (life force energy) in the physical body. This form of pranayama (breath work) creates friction in the throat which causes the breath to sound like ocean waves crashing on the beach.

Why is the breath being audible so important? It serves as a focal point during your practice, settling the fluctuations of the mind and bringing more awareness to the internal body, mind, and spirit. Thus, Ujjayi increases concentration while reminding one to surrender and find ease throughout the practice.

Ujjayi breath can be practiced both on and off the mat. Next time you are feeling stressed or uneasy, practice your Ujjayi breath for a few minutes to calm both the physical and emotional bodies.

The breath is a direct response to how you feel and think. When you are nervous, scared, stressed, or sad, the breath will reflect this by being shallow, shaky, and uneven. When you are calm, happy, and balanced, the breath will mimic these feelings.


Don’t Forget To Breathe

If using Warming Breath becomes difficult, or if you feel it creates stress in the system, return to steady natural breathing. Can you forget to breathe? The answer is Yes! Should you notice that your breath freezes and you forget to breathe out, use circular breathing – a flowing sort of breathing where the breath is not held and there is no long pause between the inhalation and exhalation, or between the exhalation and inhalation.
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Remember not to hold your breath in. Holding your breath is part of the natural startle reflex, and something that often happens as students find themselves in a new and strange yoga position.

Breathing through the mouth is rarely done during yoga practice. Breathing through the nose filters and warms the air before it enters the lungs. Let your breathing become intuitive but, in general, inhale when opening or unfolding the body, when you come up out of a pose, when raising the arms, or while twisting the upper back, or expanding the chest such as when bending backward.

Most people find that exhalation comes naturally when moving downward, lowering the arms or legs, bending forward or sideways, or twisting the lower back.


Do you have any experience or thought you would like to share? Please do leave them in my comment box and I am more than happy to hear from you! In the meanwhile, enjoy your yoga practice. Hope you can find the essence of yoga.

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I’m a qualified Yoga Teacher. I have been practicing yoga since year 2002 and start teaching since year 2004. I have created Janet Yoga Spirit to help everyone who is in the yoga journey and provide products and services to help everyone in whatever they are looking for in related to yoga including nice and comfortable yoga clothings for your yoga practice, yoga accessories that help you in your practice, retreats to help you to unplug yourself, yoga teacher training, yoga and meditation classes, yoga and wellness programs, tools to help you with the union of the body, mind and soul, and much more! Learn more about me under "About" and enjoy looking around and have a good time here! Namaste.


  • Padma

    Your article on the importance of breathing is very interesting Janet. I practice simple Yoga postures daily but I am not proficient with the advanced or intense postures.

    But each section of a posture is more conducive to either inhalation or exhalation. Some of the bending parts of a posture are suitable for inhaling and many relaxed parts of postures are suitable for exhaling. The correct breathing aids in the proper posture during yoga.

    Watching the breath is great for health and to bring the mind into focus for staying in the present and concentrating on the posture. Breathing consciously also has many other added benefits for general concentration.

    • Janet

      Thank you Padma for your sharing. Yes, yoga always work with the breathe. I have students always asked me what is the essence of yoga. I have tried my best to explain to her but I can tell that she doesn’t quite get it.

      Well, it is because it is something we have to experience it ourselves. We can only tried our best to use words to describe the feel but to actual get it, we have to experience it ourselves through our own self-realisation, adjustment and fine tune ourselves.

      It could be the same yoga pose we have been doing for years. But through regular practice with self-realisation and adjustment, we will realise our experience is different as time go by. And our breathe is an important part of the practice as it can make our experience different.

  • Timothy Balla

    Great article and website! The articles are detailed, well written and in depth! They are interesting to read and even though I`m not a yoga person I still enjoyed reading it and found it interesting! I enjoyed reading about yoga techniques and the benefits of yoga! Thank you for writing this great article! Keep up the good work on your website!

    • Janet

      Hi Timothy. Thank you and glad to learn that you enjoy reading my article. Even though you are not a yoga person, you can still practice this breathing technique on it own in your lifestyle. This breathing has a warming effect. So when you feel cold, this breathing technique can help to warm you up!..:-)

  • Michel

    I’ve tried this technique twice before, and both times it gave me anxiety. To me, anxiety is very connected to the breath and especially if I get a tight feeling over the chest.

    I meditate regularly, and I do find the breath to be healing and soothing, but only if I breathe with my stomach. Do you think that Ujjayi Pranayama is not for everyone? Or can you learn to be comfortable with using that technique?

    All the best!

    • Janet

      Hi Michel. Ujjayi breathing is suitable for everyone actually. I think it is a matter of finding the right way of doing it. Do not do the breathing by any force. Don’t let the body get too tense up. Relax and let go. Let the breath and the body go together naturally.

      Breathe and body should work together. Sometimes we tend to work on one only and forget the other one. It takes sometimes to fine tune yourself. Just be patient with yourself and you will do well…:-)

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