5 Breathwork Practices to Try

Breathe deep and let the calming begin!

Woman practicing breathing exercises.

(Dmitry Rukhlenko / Shutterstock.com)

Good health starts with breathing. It sounds so simple and obvious. Yogic traditions have known this for centuries. Today, science is proving that breathwork is a powerful tool that could  calm your nerves, improve circulation, and alleviate stress.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga before, you’ve likely focused on the physical postures, called asanas. But yoga involves more than just that, combining physical poses with focused awareness and deep breathing. Yoga Journal  stresses that breath control, known as pranayama, is considered by some to be the most important part of any yoga practice.

A study in The International Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests these exercises may improve overall wellbeing, reduce stress and anxiety, help regulate mood, and may prevent a variety of diseases. Anyone can enjoy the many benefits of each pranayama exercise. So, breathe easy and enjoy all the health benefits with these five breathwork exercises to try at home.

Nadhi Sodhana - Subtle Energy Clearing
Also known as alternate nostril breathing, Nadhi Sodhana could help calm your nerves, especially great before bedtime. A blog from One Medical explains that this deep, balanced breathing may help purify the blood, increase focus, and reduce stress.

To do it, start by exhaling to empty your lungs. Take the thumb of your dominant hand to close the right nostril. Next, inhale deep into your belly through your left nostril. Hold your breath for a moment. Then take the ring finger to block the left nostril. Now exhale through your right nostril. Pause again before repeating the same sequence. 

Ujjayi Pranayama - Ocean Breath
The Ujjayi Pranayama gets its name from the ocean-like sound the breath makes as it brushes the back of the throat. Verywell Fit recommends Ujjayi to increase focus and feel powerful, as this type of breathing boosts oxygen levels to the body.  

To do it, sit up tall in an upright posture. As you breathe, contract the back of your throat. The breath should sound like the waves of the ocean as you inhale and exhale.

Bhastrika Pranayama - Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire helps balance the doshas and restore harmony in the body. NDTV Food suggests the Breath of Fire to generate heat in the body, to feel energized, and improve respiration. 

Here’s how it works: Sit in lotus pose cross-legged. Fill your lungs with a deep breath. Then release the breath after counting to five. Exhale forcefully through the nose while contracting the abdominal muscles. Continue to inhale and exhale without any pauses. Start by repeating the sequence 21 times before progressing to longer cycles.

Simhasana - Lion's Breath
Bring out your inner lion with this powerful pranayama technique. The Yoga with Adriene website recommends Lion’s Breath when you want to feel inspired, confident, and let go of what other people think.

To do lion’s breath, sit in hero’s pose with legs bent and pelvis between the feet. Exhale making a “ha”-like sound with your mouth open wide, eyes looking up, and tongue sticking out. Inhale. Repeat the sequence, remembering to release and let go through your breath.

Kumbhaka Pranayama - Breath Retention 
Mindful holding of the breath helps increase energy levels and remove toxins from the body, according to Only My Health. It also helps you feel energized and rejuvenated. 

To practice this pranayama, inhale deeply for five counts. Close both nostrils using your thumb and middle finger. Then hold your breath for ten counts. Exhale and repeat.

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