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Take A Deep Breath, You Can Do This: Hatha Yoga Breathing Techniques!

When contemplating the practice of yoga, it’s common to first envision the various poses typically performed in a class. Indeed, participating in yoga often includes flowing through and maintaining a series of postures. Yet, it’s important to recognize that these physical aspects represent just one facet of the broader yoga experience. Let’s get into some Hatha yoga breathing techniques.

In addition to the physical postures, breathing is a fundamental component of yoga practice. It forms the cornerstone of most yoga styles, with breath work being integral to the experience. Hatha Yoga, in particular, emphasizes the synchronization of breath with movement, fostering a deeper sense of awareness and connection with oneself.

Breath work is a critical focus across various styles within the Hatha Yoga tradition, whether it’s Power Vinyasa Yoga, Hot Yoga, or Restorative Yoga. In all these forms, the emphasis on mindful breathing is paramount, as it enhances the effectiveness of the practice and deepens the mind-body connection.

Hatha Yoga encompasses a wide array of Pranayama techniques, or breathing exercises, each designed to cater to different aspects of physical and mental well-being. These techniques vary in complexity and purpose, ranging from simple deep breathing exercises to more intricate methods involving breath retention and controlled exhalations.

Understanding Hatha Yoga Breathing

In the vast landscape of yogic practices, Hatha Yoga Breathing stands out as a fundamental aspect aimed at harnessing the inherent power of the breath. The term “haṭha” comprises the syllables “ha” and “ṭha,” representing the sun and the moon, respectively, symbolizing the union of opposing energies within the body. Through conscious control of the breath, practitioners endeavor to synchronize these energies, paving the way for heightened awareness and spiritual evolution.

Unlocking the Secrets of Breath

Central to the efficacy of Hatha Yoga Breathing are the three easy-to-practice breathing techniques, meticulously designed to yield rapid results without adverse effects. These techniques, rooted in ancient wisdom and bolstered by modern insights, offer a pathway to tranquility amidst the chaos of contemporary life.

The Three Breathing Techniques

  1. The First Breathing Yoga: Sit comfortably in Sukhasana. Keep any mudra you like. The spine should be erect. Inhale slowly, simultaneously closing the eyelids. Detain the inhaled breath ONLY for one or two seconds. Then exhale, simultaneously opening the eyelids. Repeat this process for fifty times, ensuring the practice is slow and deliberate. The results are instant, fostering calmness of mind, peace, and enlightenment.
  2. The Second Breathing Yoga: While seated in the same posture, inhale through the nostrils slowly, detaining the inhaled breath for one or two seconds. Then exhale slowly through the mouth. Close the mouth and wait for one or two seconds before repeating the process five to seven times. This technique stimulates cellular rejuvenation and revitalizes the entire being.
  3. The Third Breathing for Mind Control: Begin by sitting in the same posture with closed eyelids. Open the mouth slowly and exhale the inside air with a gentle, slow speed. Then, enter a state of meditation without reciting any mantra. This practice slows the speed of breathing, calming the mind and fostering a sense of tranquility. With regular practice, the practitioner can extend this Sadhana gradually, experiencing profound mental serenity and spiritual growth.

The Grand Lemurrian Shiva Sakthi Maha Mudra

Incorporating a transformative mudra into the practice enhances the benefits of Hatha Yoga Breathing techniques, fostering a deeper connection to one’s inner self and the universal consciousness. This ancient posture, passed down through generations, serves as a gateway to spiritual bliss and enlightenment.

Breathing is the very essence of life and the first thing we do when we enter this world and the last thing when we depart. In between, our bodies absorb roughly half a billion breaths.

Apart from sustaining life, the mind, body, and breath are so intimately connected that they deeply influence each other. The way we breathe is influenced by our state of mind, and in turn, our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breathing. Deep breathing practices advocated in advanced yoga training can have a positive impact on our physiology, both body and mind.

For thousands of years, Yoga and Ayurveda have employed breathing techniques (pranayama) to maintain, balance and restore physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It results in several physiological benefits, achieved through the control of respiration.

The benefits of a regulated practice of simple, deep yogic breathing include:

  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Increase in energy levels
  • Reduced anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Lower/stabilized blood pressure
  • Regulating your Breath – The Yoga Way

The simplest breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is a timed way of breathing where the exhalation is longer than the inhalation. This reduces the tone of your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) while activating your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, relax, and digest response). Breathing in this way for at least five minutes will bring about a difference in your overall mood. Anyone can do this exercise without having to consult a teacher.

Pranayama Techniques

In addition to the practice of simple deep breathing, ancient yogis have detailed different types of rhythmic deep breathing techniques that can have differing effects on the mind and body. Each of these breathing techniques has specific effects on the mind-body continuum.

Please keep in mind that you should learn the following breathing techniques from a qualified teacher who will also be able to guide you when to practice, how many times and over what period of time. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the oldest texts on Hatha yoga, it is said that: “All diseases are eradicated by the proper practice of pranayama. All diseases can arise through improper practice. The lungs heart and nerves are normally strong and gain strength with regulated and suitable pranayama, but weakened with improper practice. By wrong and excessive practice one’s mental quirks and even nervous tics could become exaggerated. Every practice should be treated with respect and caution. Hence guidance is to be sought.

The Yoga Chudamani Upanishad states: “Just as the lion, elephant, and tiger are brought under control slowly and steadily, similarly the PRANA should be controlled, otherwise it becomes destructive to the practitioner.

Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing

A yogic practice that immediately helps you to feel calmer whenever you are feeling anxious or agitated. Inhale deeply through your left nostril while holding your right nostril closed with your right thumb. At its culmination, switch nostrils by closing off your left nostril and continuing to exhale smoothly through your right nostril. After exhaling fully, proceed to inhale through the right nostril, again closing it off at the peak of your inhalation. Lift your finger off the left nostril and exhale fully. Continue alternating your breathing through each nostril and practice for 3 to 5.