Even though it can seem like yoga is all about doing poses, bending, and stretching, one of the most important aspects of the practice is actually how you breathe. Focusing on your breath, and connecting it to your movements, is a surefire way to make the most of your yoga flow. There are plenty of breathing techniques in yoga that are designed specifically to release pent-up anxiety and stress, so you can feel more mindful and focused while you move.

To give this type of breathwork a try, head over to the Yoga With Adriene YouTube Channel, where certified yoga instructor Adriene Mishler shares all sorts of yogic breathing techniques called Pranayama. According to YogaJournal, Prana means life force or “breath sustaining the body” in Sanskrit, and Ayama translates to “extend or draw out.” Together, pranayama means “breath extension or control,” which is exactly what you’re doing when you consciously inhale and exhale.

Studies have shown that the practice of pranayama or breathwork has many physiological and psychological benefits, including reducing anxiety and depression symptoms — two things that can make you feel less-than-mindful. Taking deeper, more intentional breaths is also linked to feeling more focused, which is great if you’re in desperate need of a reset.

Whether you try Ujjayi breathing, or simply pay closer attention to your breath while you move through a yoga flow, it’s bound to make you feel more centered. Ready to give it a try? Scroll down for the best breath sessions from Yoga with Adriene.

19-Minute Breathwork

In true Yoga with Adriene style, this video starts off in the comfiest pose of them all: lying on your back. From there, Mishler guides you through deep breathing techniques to help you cultivate a stronger relationship with your breath, while relieving stress and anxiety. You’ll also do a reclined cobbler’s pose and other moves that help you focus on deep inhalations and long exhalations.

Pranayama Breathing

This 20-minute video is a good go-to whenever you want to calm your nervous system and relieve stress and anxiety. Do it on your yoga mat or right in your chair at work — whatever you need to do to reset. By the end you’ll definitely feel more present and balanced.

Ujjayi Breathing

This short and sweet video focuses on Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as the victorious breath. It’s an audible breath or an internal sound that’s used in yoga to anchor the mind. In this video, Mishler points out that it’s pretty popular in hatha or flow yoga classes for its calming effect — so it’s possible you’ve done it before.

To get started, you’ll sit up tall on your mat and notice how your breath sounds naturally. Breathe in, breathe out, and listen. Then give Ujjayi a try. Take a deep breath in, open your mouth, and let it out with a long “ha”. This exhale will sound almost like ocean waves. You can also make the sound in the back of your throat with your mouth closed. Mishler says the aim is to eventually connect this breath to movement.

Breath of Fire

Kapalabhati, or skull shining breath, is a powerful, rhythmic breath that consists of short, strong exhales and passive inhales, Mishler explains in her video’s description. She calls it a “cleansing breath” that can help reboot the system and sharpen focus.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

For a quick reset, do alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana pranayama. To give it a try, you literally pinch one of your nostrils closed and alternate breathing in through one side of the nose, then the other. According to Mishler, this little trick can help calm your nervous system to relieve stress. It’s also helpful when you need to concentrate, she says in the video, or whenever you have a headache.

Lion’s Breath

Another option is Lion’s Breath, or simha pranayama in Sanskrit. This breath is combined with a kneeling pose to relieve stress, boost vitality, and open up your chest and neck. According to Mishler, the breath can feel kind of strange at first, and she even admits to resisting it at first. But give it a try and see how you feel.

30-Day Breath Series

Breathing is so important to yoga that Mishler actually offers a 30-day journey focusing exclusively on breath. While you’ll do traditional yoga poses in each video, most of your energy will zero in on those all-important inhales and exhales. Try this Day 1 video for a quick, mindful reset, or go through the entire playlist over the course of a month to really change how you feel.

Studies referenced:

Jayawardena, R. 2020. Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review. Int J Yoga. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_37_19.

Ma, X. 2017. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874.

Tiwari, N. 2019. Yogic Breathing Instruction in Patients with Treatment-Resistant Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Pilot Study. Int J Yoga. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_22_18.

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