Yogic Breathwork 101

Author: Georgina Berbari (Registered Yoga Instructor)

The practice of controlling your breath in yoga is called “pranayama.” “Prana” means life force or breath sustaining the body, and “ayama” means to extend or draw out. When yogic breathwork is practiced, the natural flow of prana is expanded throughout our energy channels. 

Nadis. Swami Satyananda Saraswati describes mastering the breath as providing:

“…the method whereby the life force [prana] can be activated or regulated in order to go beyond one’s normal boundaries or limitations and attain a higher state of vibratory energy and awareness.”

The way you breathe has such a huge impact on how you feel in general, but this is often overlooked. Pranayama is used to relieve stress, improve mental clarity, and benefit one’s overall health. Using the full capacity of your breath to quell your anxious emotions is highly calming and restorative to both the mind and body.

Below are a few simple techniques that can be implemented on your own as a ritualistic endeavor or simply to manage day-to-day stress. 

1. Balanced Breathing (Sama Vritti)

Sama vritti is a simple breathing technique that calms the autonomic nervous system. In turn, the amount of stress hormones in your body naturally decrease. 

Simply monitor how long you’re inhaling and exhaling, and try to match the lengths of your breaths. Breathe this way mindfully for a few minutes, really savoring each inhale and exhale.


2. Abdominal Breathing (Adham Pranayama)

Abdominal breathing strengthens the muscles of your diaphragm and, over time, makes your overall breathing easier and more efficient. Adham pranayama also brings a sense of calm to the mind since you’re focusing on your breath and nothing else.

You can practice abdominal breathing lying down or sitting in a comfortable position upright — whatever feels best for you.


3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shoddana)

Nadi shoddana reduces anxiety, calms the mind, and makes your entire body feel utterly relaxed. Nadi means “channel” or “flow” and shodhana means “purification.” Therefore, nadi shodhana clears and purifies the subtle channels of the mind-body organism.


4. Humming Bee Breath (Brahmari)

This breathing technique got its name because you literally sound like a bumblebee while doing it. That aside, humming bee breath is good for getting rid of frustration and anxiety, letting go of agitation, and releasing anger, making it quite the beneficial pranayama. 


5. Cooling Breath (Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama)

Sitali and sitkari breathing have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system and each of these pranayamas is practiced slightly differently. Sitali requires you to be able to curl your tongue, but if you can’t do this, you can opt for sitkari, which provides the same anxiety-reducing effects without having to curl your tongue.


Looking to explore this healing modality?

Check out our upcoming Breathwork for Your Art Practice. A virtual event with Katherine Abegg and Dia Luna, on Friday, October 16th.


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