9 Types of Yogic Breathing Exercises and When to Use Them




Don’t you hate it when you’re in a tizzy about something – maybe crying or angry – and someone tells you to “just breathe?”

It’s the worst, right?

You’re all I AM BREATHING! And they’re all “not really.”

The truth is, even though you may be upset at whoever is giving you the very common suggestion to stop freaking out and take a breath, they’re right.

In yoga, breath is your life force. It’s what keeps you grounded, calm, clear headed. It’s what helps you make better decisions in all sorts of situations. Yogic breathing exercises are not like any other type of breathing.

For thousands of years, yoga breathing techniques that we are familiar with are scientifically proven to:

  • Improve blood pressure
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Restore energy levels
  • Reduce pain
  • Relax muscles
  • Lower stress-induced cortisol levels

As a yoga teacher, I am constantly integrating different forms of yoga breathing techniques into my practices. It helps my students have more harmony and peace in their lives as well as better focus and mental clarity.

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In the meantime here are the different types of yoga breathing exercises names you should be familiar with:

1. Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing

This type of breathing brings almost immediate relief to those who are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, or when you’re feeling agitated.

It helps slow your heartbeat, lower your blood pressure, and calms down the central nervous system. Alternate nostril breathing is a good practice for general well being as well. And the more you practice, the easier it will be to use this type of yogic breath during times of stress.

2. Ujjayi or Ocean’s Breath

Ocean’s Breath is the most common form in yoga for breathing practices.

This yoga breathing techniques has been shown to improve the quality of life in cancer patients, patients who suffer from severe depressive issues, and has even been shown in a few studies to help people who suffer from hypothyroidism by improving pulmonary function.

In yoga, breath is even more important than the actual poses. Here are some other names Ocean’s Breath may go by:

  • Victorious breathing
  • Snake breathing
  • Whispering breath
  • Snoring breath

We practice ujjayi breathing in almost every one of the classes I offer on MyYogaTeacher!

3. Shitali pranayama or cooling breath

This type of breathing is most effective in the warmer months when your body may need a little help cooling down.

Cooling breath, also known as “Taco Breath” after the curled tongue used to move the air, is known to:

  • Quelch thirst and hunger
  • Improve bad breath
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce fevers
  • Improve high blood pressure

When done properly, this yoga breathing types exercise directs heat away from the head, neck, and digestive system to help cool the body.

4. Sitkari pranayama or hissing breath

This type of yoga breath is another variation of cooling breath meditation. The only difference is shitali pranayama is performed through a rolled tongue stuck out of the mouth, and sitkari pranayama is performed through clenched teeth.

During hissing breath, do not clench your teeth so tightly that it hurts your teeth or jaws. Teeth should be only just clenched.

Hissing breath is also another cooling breath and can be done in the heat of the day or any time when the body needs to be cooled down. It also reduces anxiety, anger, agitation, and calms the mind.

5. Brahmari or humming breath

The name of this breath type is named after a black Indian bee.

If you have a hard time meditating or maintaining focus while you’re meditating, humming breath is very helpful, but it is also good to do before going to bed.

Brahmari pranayama releases cerebral tension and helps lower blood pressure, helping to relax your central nervous systems.

This yoga breathing techniques should not be done lying down. Always practice this breath sitting upright. It is also contraindicated in pregnant or menstruating women, and people who suffer with extremely high blood pressure, epilepsy, chest pain, or ear infection.

6. Bhastrika or bellows breath

If you’re wanting to lose weight, this type of yogic breathing might be useful to you!

Bellows breath is used to energize and awaken the body. It also may help boost digestion and increase metabolism. However, absolutely do not practice this yoga for breathing exercise if you have cardiac issues, extremely high blood pressure, or a hernia (or previous issues with hernia).

7. Surya Bhedana or solar breath

The main purpose of the solar breath is to bring vital energy and life to the body, to revitalize it. This type of yogic breathing gives the sympathetic nervous system a boost and increases the efficiency of the digestive tract.

You will be bringing heat to the body through your inhale (on your right nostril) and cooling your body on the exhale out of your left nostril.

The whole digestive system is affected by this form of breathing, so it is best not to do it right after eating.

8. Chandra Bhedana or lunar breath

This yoga breath practice is just the opposite of how you perform the solar breath practice. The idea is to bring coolness to the body..

It is important not to do both breaths on the same day and only do twice a day, in the morning and evening.

9. Active Yoga Breathing

This yoga breathing exercise will help you be more prepared to do the common Ocean’s Breath during almost any yoga practice.

It is the practice of breathing deeply, evenly, and consistently during physical activity, such as walking or bike riding. If walking, use 5-10 steps for your inhale and 5 to 10 steps to exhale. Doing this helps to calm your body and give you the benefits of deep breathing while also getting exercise.

If you’re looking to learn more about the different types of yogic breathing and their benefits, you should definitely give MyYogaTeacher a try! You can get your 2-week free trial here and check out all the different yoga teachers and what they have to offer.

Feel free to check out any of my classes as well! I offer one called Breathe and Flow that you just may enjoy!

I hope to see you on the mat soon!


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