Breathing in Yoga Postures

Did you happened to get lost a bit in class or while practicing yoga at home with a video, and the teacher telling you doing when you exhale and inhale? Well you are not alone, this is one of the most common situations that happen to people who are new to this ancient practice. Several of my students have told me about this difficulty, and some family friends of MindYoga4U. So for them, and for you, if you are also interested in the subject, is this article.

As you gain understanding of this principle and learn to tune your own mental and physical condition, you will be preparing to design a practice that suits your personal needs.

Breathing in Yoga Postures

Proper use of breath adds important to the practice of yoga physical dimension. Brings both physical and mental improvement, and leads naturally and easily to the practice of yogic breathing or pranayama.

For thousands of years, yogis have realized the profound relationship between a mental state and a breath. When we are nervous, scared or angry, immediately it affects our breathing, usually becoming shorter, rapid and shallow. On the contrary, when we are relaxed and calm, our breath is long, slow and deep. Because of this, our breathing often reflects our mental condition. Although the ultimate goal of yogic breathing is not simply calm the mind, this is an essential first step.

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In the philosophy of India, usually a pool of water symbolizes the mind (citta). Activities and wishes (vrittis) are characterized as waves waving water surface. Yoga different disciplines are intended to eliminate these agitations or waves, and yogic breathing in particular helps quiet the mind and induces relaxation and harmony.

The basic principles of yogic breathing are very simple:

  1. Expansion movements are made with inhalation
  2. Contraction movements are made with exhalation
  3. Twisting movements are made with exhalation

When you expand your body, for example in the position of the image of chest stretch or variation Salabhasana, your chest opens naturally. When you inhale, the chest and diaphragm also open. Therefore, if you inhale with an opening movement of the body movement and respiration they are in harmony.

Breathing during Asana.  By expanding, you inhale.
Breathing during Asana. By expanding, you inhale.

Conversely, if you lean forward as Uttanasana, your chest contracts. And when you breathe out, the contraction of the chest and diaphragm harmonizes the movement and breathing.

Breathing during Asana.  By contracting, exhaling.
Breathing during Asana. By contracting, exhaling.

The same principle applies to twisting movements. Torciéndote when you’re in a posture, chest contracts, making it difficult to breathe. To maintain harmony between breathing and movement, it is necessary to exhale when you walk into a twist.

Breathing during Asana.  The twist, you breathe out.
Breathing during Asana. The twist, you breathe out.

Breath synchronization with the movement

All movements should be carefully synchronized with breathing. You should start breathing just before movement begins and continue until just after the movement ends. The respiration rate determines the speed of movement. The movement should be slow but not so slow that your breathing finishes first.


Once you master the coordination of movement and breathing you can add new enhancements to the use of breathing. You can start using a particular proportion of breath counting long breath, mentally or with the help of a metronome. Try to count in one second intervals.

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Another development is the use higher proportions of time of breathing in positions. A ratio in a breath is a quantitative relationship between two or three parts of the entire breath. A 1: 2 indicates that exhalation is twice longer than the inhalation, for example, 4 seconds inhales, exhales 8 seconds. Respiration may be also supported or suspended after inhalation and / or exhalation. So a ratio that includes a retention after inhalation and exhalation should be 1: 1: 1: 1, for example, 4 seconds inhale, hold 4 seconds 4 seconds exhales, retainer 4 seconds. The breath holding adds considerable strength to practice.

Advantages of working with breathing

There are numerous advantages of working successfully with breathing in yoga postures, here I mention some:

  1. It helps develop deep concentration. It is not possible to synchronize the movement and breathing, and count specific proportions, unless your mind is fully absorbed in your practice. The development of concentration is an essential part of all disciplines of Yoga.
  2. Adds another dimension to the way you can work on each posture. You can change the effect and feel of a posture by altering the pattern of breathing. For example, using 1: 0: 2: 0 or 1: 0: 1: 1 Paschimottanasana (Seated forward flexion, Figure 2) will have a different effect than using 1: 0: 1: 0.
  3. By increasing your concentration during practice, the entire movement quality improvement.
  4. Breathing helps measure the effects of the practice. If you practice asanas without using breathing properly, you may feel tension or get hurt when you hold the pose too long. This can be avoided if you watch your breath carefully, if there is any tension, your breathing will become shorter, which is a clear indicator that the position has been sustained long enough.
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The use of breathing may also be useful in extending in a controlled manner, the amount of time spent in a posture. For example when you learn first Sarvangasana (Sail), you may find that 12 breaths is the maximum time that you find comfortable posture for you. Eventually, each 10 week or every 10 days, you can gradually increase the number of breaths until no tension, you can hold the position 5 or 10 minutes.

Yoga postures and pranayama techniques or breath control

Given that the two practices are closely linked, it is possible to apply the breathing proportions used in the practice of asanas to practice pranayama. You’ll be much more prepared, both psychologically and physically for pranayama. For example, if you choose to work for a longer exhalation pranayama, you can prepare for this by using a longer extent during practice of physical yoga.

By working with breathing in yoga postures in a very precise way, you perceive that the effects of the practice are becoming ever deeper. Therefore, it is extremely important that the practice be done with care and precision, and fully living the moment, being aware of your practice.

A big hug for you!