Yogis have known for years what science is just finding out – you can manage your mood through various yogic breathing techniques. If your mindfulness practice is struggling because you are feeling sleepy, distracted, or anxious, these breathing techniques will help you achieve a calm focused state of mind.
Read about these three different breathing techniques that can help you raise or calm your energy, then take a look at the Three Breathing Techniques for Mindfulness worksheet for detailed instructions.
UJJAYI – Victorious Breath or Ocean Sounding Breath for Centering Mind and Body
Ujjayi breathing is an effective pranayama, or breathing exercise, for stress relief and can be a useful tool when feeling anxious. The word ujjayi means mastery (jaya) in raising the energy level (ud). This breathing technique will allow you to quiet the mind and quickly reduce anxiety – in as little as two or three minutes.
Breathe in and out with a slightly constricted throat. This will produce an ocean-sounding breath where you can focus all of your attention. You may even get the sensation of being on the beach, listening to the waves wash in and out, and your energy will become calm and clear.
NADI-SODHANA – Alternate- Nostril Breathing for Balancing Energy
Practiced for centuries by yogis, this particular breathing technique has been scientifically studied and has been shown to affect the different hemispheres of the brain. It is likely that this breath helps balance the nasal cycles, the natural cycling we experience throughout the day where one nostril is more constricted than the other, causing the other nostril to be dominant. Right nostril-dominant breathing has an energizing affect, where left nostril-dominant breathing is relaxing. Nadi-Sodhana means purification (sodhana) of the nerve currents (nadis). The nadis are metaphorical nerve channels in the energy body through which prana (life-force) flows. Alternate-nostril breathing is a great way to counteract physical and mental tension. By regulating and lengthening the breath, you release pent up tention and calm the mind. This breath is slightly energizing and gives you the sensation of just having a cup of coffee – without the jitters!
Start nadi-sodhana by closing your right nostril and breathing in through the left. Next, close your left nostril and breathe out through the right. Breathe in through the right nostril and out through the left. Repeat until the breath is slow and even. (see our worksheet for more detailed instructions).
KAPALABHATI- Cleansing Breath for Raising Energy and Clearing the Mind
Seventy-five percent of the toxins in our bodies are released through respiration – that is if we are breathing deeply and fully. Kapalbhati breathing is a great exercise to practice first thing in the morning as a cleansing routine, or any time of the day when you are feeling sluggish. Kapala means forehead or skull, while bhati means cleansing. In this breathing technique your lungs work like bellows, pumping air forcefully in and out. Breathing in this manner cleanses the system, calms the mind, and generates prana (life-force) throughout the body.
The trick to this breath is a forceful exhale as you sharply and rapidly contract the abdomen, followed by a passive inhale. By emptying the stale air from your lungs, you can allow fresh oxygen-rich air to enter, helping to purify the blood, strengthen circulation, and cleanse the entire respiratory system.
Play with these three breathing techniques and take note of how they affect your mindfulness practice.
For more information on the science behind yogic breathing, check out these links: