Yogic breathing practices have been around for centuries, first practiced by the saints and rishis of India. They constitute an essential part of yoga as we know it, and are popular even today for the many benefits they offer.
When we are born, the very first thing we do is breathe, and when we leave this world, it's the very last thing we do. Breathing is the very essence of life. In the interim, the human body takes in approximately half a billion breaths.
The mind, body, and breath are all intricately linked to one another, and as a result, they exert a significant amount of influence on one another. Our mental state has an effect on the way we breathe, and in turn, the way we breathe can have an effect on our thoughts and our physiology.
The practice of slow, deep breathing that are encouraged in more advanced forms of yoga have the potential to have a beneficial effect on our physiology in both the body and mind. You can read more about how does breath work improve mental health.
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Yogic Breathing Practices for Mind-Body Balance
Check out these six yogic breathing practices that can help you achieve mind-body balance.
1) Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
This is one of the best yogic breathing practices to make you feel calmer immediately when you're anxious or agitated.
Take a deep breath in through your left nostril while pressing your right thumb against your right nostril to keep it closed. At the peak, switch nostrils by plugging the left one and exhaling normally through the right. Next, close your left nostril at the top of your exhalation, and inhale through your right.
To fully exhale, remove your finger from your left nostril. Practice that for 3–5 minutes, alternating your breathing between nostrils. Get in the habit of focusing gently on your inhalations and exhalations while making sure your breathing is smooth and relaxed.
This is one of the more calming yogic breathing practices, helping soothe and settle your mind when you're irritated or frustrated. As it has a heating effect on the body, you should do this asana daily only if prescribed by a teacher.
Take a few deeper breaths than usual. To practise this, close your mouth, and tighten the muscles in the back of your throat as you exhale through your nose. If done properly, it should evoke the sound of ocean waves.
Exhaling with your mouth open and a "haaaaah" sound is another option for this exercise. Create a similar sound by closing your mouth and exhaling through your nose. After practising this method, you can apply it while breathing in by gently narrowing your throat.
3) Brahmari Pranayama
The third asana in our list of yogic breathing practices is this asana, which will improve your mental and emotional awareness. This asana should always be done while sitting up straight, never while lying flat on the back.
The inhalation is performed in a manner similar to the ujjayi (explained above), and the outbreath is accomplished by humming like a bee. A humming sound can cause vibrations in the chest and brain.
Take ten full, slow breaths in this manner, followed by ten full, slow Brahmari breaths, closing both ears during the exhalation process. Consequently, the resonance effect and its benefits are significantly amplified.
4) Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)
It's best to perform this exercise under supervision. One of the best yogic breathing practices, bhastrika pranayama can quickly increase your energy level and calm the mind. Keep in mind that although this exercise is to be performed vigorously, it should not be so forceful that your face gets distorted.
The correct technique is to close the right nostril and take 20 quick breaths through the left, mimicking the action of a bellows. Bellows breathing is to be done again for another 20 times, this time through the right nostril while the left is closed.
Bellows breathing entails counting to 20 while inhaling deeply through both nostrils. The practice of drawing prana (life force) into the body and mind can help remove obstacles in the mind, heart, and spirit.
5) Sheetkari Pranayama
Sheetkari pranayama is one of the best yogic breathing practices if you're feeling very hot on a summer day. The asana provides many benefits, such as reducing pitta, purifying senses, strengthening gums, and reducing bad mouth odor.
Rest your teeth on your tongue, and make the sound s-s-s with your tongue as you inhale through your nose, hold your breath for eight seconds, and exhale through your mouth.
6) Sheetali Pranayama
The latest in our list of yogic breathing practices is the Sheetali pranayama, which is known for reducing heat (pitta) in your head, neck, and upper digestive tract. People with asthma, bronchitis, and chronic constipation should avoid this exercise.
Fold your tongue in half lengthwise, and take a deep breath in through the crease. You should now close your mouth, count to eight while holding your breath, and exhale through your nose. Continue for eight breaths, and keep going for up to eight minutes at a time.
Performing the aforementioned yogic breathing practices will leave you feeling calm, rejuvenated, and ready to take on life as it comes.
For more such pranayama, check out these deep yoga breathing exercises for stress and anxiety.