5 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Beginners: Easy Traditional Yoga Breathing Techniques
Y oga breathing exercises are a great natural way to improve both your physical and mental health. But what exactly are yoga breathing exercises and what are the best exercises for a beginner to start with? In this post, I’ll give you a quick overview of what is yoga breathing and I’ll cover five breathing exercises in yoga for beginners.
What is Yoga Breathing?
Yoga breathing, breathwork, or pranayama are all words to describe control of our breathing. Yoga breathing exercises can be more mindfulness focused where the goal is to focus on the body and the feeling of the breath, or the technique may be more focused on the breath its self making very specific adjustments to the length of inhales, exhales or adding in breath holds. The great thing about breathwork is that there are so many different practices with different benefits, that you can find beginner breathwork techniques that are perfect for your needs whatever they may be. It’s completely safe, easy to learn, and we can get results every time.
Yoga Breathing Exercise Benefits
Yoga breathing exercise benefits include relieving stress, reducing anxiety, improving focus, boosting digestion, improving sleep, balancing our mood, and overall regulating our energy levels. Traditional yoga breathing techniques are so effective because breathing techniques can directly control our nervous system, both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. This allows us to turn on either the rest and relax portion of our nervous system to relieve stress and improve sleep, or activate the fight or flight portion of our nervous system to gain energy and focus.
For more information on how traditional yoga breathing exercises affect our nervous system check out my blog post How Breathwork Works? Effective Practice or Just Woo Woo.
5 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Beginners
The following five beginner yoga breathing exercises are perfect for absolute beginners who what to improve focus, relieve stress, calm down, and clear the mental chatter. All of the exercises below are easy and accessible yoga breathing for beginners. These exercises can be done by anyone without any prior experience.
1. Ocean Breath / Victorious Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)
Ocean breath or ujjayi breathing is a gentile berthing practice that can be used to quiet the mind and clear mental chatter. This is the perfect beginner yoga breathing exercise! It’s traditionally used during yoga poses, but can be used independently for its ability to calm the body and mind. During this breathing exercise we want to create a gentle restriction at the back of the throat. You don’t want to tighten your throat, it should be just a slight contraction that creates sort of a whooshing sound like an ocean wave hints the name. Or you could compare it to the sound of Darth Vader. You want to create that gentle restriction as you inhale and exhale. Each breath is long, full, deep, and controlled.
To practice ocean breath start by taking a few normal breathes in and out through your mouth. Slightly constrict the back of the throat. As you’re exhale and inhaling with the slight throat constriction, maintain the ocean sound. The ocean sounds should be subtitle, it shouldn’t be audible to someone standing a few yards away. When you’re comfortable breathing with the throat constriction, gently close your mouth and begin to breathe solely through your nose. Repeat this for as long as you need.
2. Cooling Breath (Sheetali Pranayama or Seetkari Pranayama )
If your body feels hot and overheated, or if you feel anxious, cooling breath will help you find relief. It’s the perfect exercise to cool off after exercise, being outside in the heat, or if you’re feeling emotionally heated. You’ll be surprised by how much calmer, cooler, and more relaxed you feel afterward.
To practice cooling breath, simply roll your tongue into a tube shape and breathe in through your mouth. If you cannot curl up your tongue like a taco, you can fold it horizontally between your teeth, or just purse your lips together and make an “O” shape with your mouth. To breathe out, close your mouth and breathe out through the nose. Repeat this cycle to get a cooling effect.
Humming bee breath or bhramari pranayama breathing is a very simple breathing exercise that’s calming, relaxing, and creates a sense of joy and ease. It’s a very simple practice where you breathe through the nose creating a humming sound. This breathing exercise creates its sense of calm by stimulating the vagus nerve with this humming vibration. You can play with the humming noise and create higher or lower tones to feel how they affect the body differently.
To practice humming bee breath, sit comfortably with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Start by taking a few deep breaths. Then, close your eyes. Keep your mouth closed, breathing in and out through the nose. As you exhale, make a humming sound like the letter M. Keep the sound sustained until you need to inhale. Repeat this cycle. Breathe in through the nose, breathe out through the mouth while humming like a buzzing bee. You can repeat this cycle for several minutes, practicing as long as feels good to you.
4. Three Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)
Three part breath or dirga pranayama is an excellent exercise to reduce stress and anxiety that builds up throughout the day. It also helps to improve focus if you’re struggling with a wandering mind. You can practice this exercise anywhere anytime without anyone knowing. This exercise will help you to breathe in the most efficient way possible. It eliminates shallow breathing, and makes sure you’re using your diaphragm to fill your lungs properly.
To practice three part breath find a comfortable position either sitting upright or lying flat on your back. Place one hand on your chest just below your collarbone, and the other hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in and feel your belly expand and rise, followed by the expansion of your ribs, then allow your upper chest and shoulders to move. Breathe out reversing the order of movement feeling your upper chest lower, your ribs contracting, followed by your belly falling. Notice the movement of your hands. It should feel like a wave. Continue this exercise breathing at your own pace for as long as you need.
5. Lions Breath (Simha Pranayama)
Lion’s breath or simha pranayama is the perfect practice to use when you feel very tight, tense, and on edge. After a long day you can accumulate and build up a lot of tension in the face and jaw that eventually spreads to the whole body. The facial expression you make during this breathing exercise helps to release tension, relieve stress, and allow for relaxation. While this practice releases tension, it won’t leave you feeling groggy or sleepy, you’ll finish feeling energized.
To practice lion’s breath, take a deep breath in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth making an “ah” sound. When you breathe out, look up, open your mouth as far as you can and stick your tongue out as far as you can. When you’re ready to inhale, relax your face and mouth and return to a normal expression. You can practice this breathing technique in any yoga pose or just in a normal sitting position.