What is Yoga?
Yoga is a practice originating from India. It combines whole-body movement, meditation, and breathing techniques to improve the body’s physical health, mental focus, and spiritual health or well-being. Yoga employs various poses and stretching positions held for a certain amount of time, requiring concentration and proper breathing.
Nowadays, Yoga has become a popular exercise form that focuses on strength, agility, and breathing that can help build muscle strength, improve flexibility, improve heart health, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and also help promote better breath control.
Proper Warmup Routine
In every exercise program, a proper warm-up routine is vital. The warm-up workout routine will start with increasing the heart rate through functional movements, stretching, and breathing. In yoga, a proper warm-up routine consists of gentle stretching of the arms and legs as you inhale deeply, expand your lungs, and release muscle tension as you exhale.
Breathing exercises, or Pranayama, are essential in the practice of Yoga. Every pose needs a great amount of concentration in breathing. Conscious breathing is the essence of Yoga because it assists in connecting the core energy passages or life force of the body to the body movements produced in every Yoga pose.
Deep breathing also accesses a deeper spiritual level of connection, achieving a holistic benefit of Yoga to the mind, body, and soul. Here, 5 simple breathing exercises before Yoga are discussed.
5 Breathing Exercises
1) Breath of Fire
The Breath of Fire is also known as the Bhastrika Pranayama. It is done by sitting tall with the legs crossed. The neck and shoulders must be relaxed. Take a deep breath through the nose as the lungs continuously expand. As you exhale, let out the air in short spurts with a hissing breath. Repeatedly do this breathing exercise for 5 minutes or 21 times.
2) Lion’s Breath
The Lion’s Breath is also known as the Simhasana Pranayama. It is done by kneeling down on the floor while the arms are placed on the knees. The ankles must be crossed and the feet pointing out. Through the nose, take a deep breath. Then exhale through the mouth with the mouth open wide and sticking out the tongue lengthwise towards the chin.
As exhaling, you must produce the sound “ha”. Repeat this breathing exercise multiple times and feel the tension in your muscles released in every repetition.
3) Skull Cleanser
The Skull Cleanser yoga breathing is also known as the Kapalabhati Pranayama or Skull Shining breath. In this yoga breathing exercise, you may start with a comfortable seated position on a yoga mat in a cross-legged position. The spine, shoulders, and neck must be kept in a straight line. The palms are placed on the knees.
To practice the skull shining breath, inhale fully, then exhale quickly with a sudden contraction of the abdominal muscles. Multiple exhalations can be done for a single inhalation. Gradually increase the number of exhalations per inhalation.
4) Alternate Nostril Breathing
The Alternate Nostril Breathing or the Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is one of the powerful yoga breathing exercises to practice breath control. In general, the term Nadi Shodhana translates to “clearing the channels of circulation.” A few rounds of the Nadi Shodhana Pranayama can produce a calming effect on the body and may be added to anyone’s yoga practice.
To start, take a comfortable position, probably sitting tall, with the spine in a straight line with the upper chest open. Relax the left hand into the lap or left knee and the right hand in front of the face. Bring the right index finger and middle finger to rest between the eyebrows. Eyes must be closed, and then take deep breaths in and out through the nose.
The next step is to close the left nostril using the ring finger, inhale, then keep the breath at for a few seconds while the rib cage is expanded. Open the right nostril and slowly breathe out, pause at the bottom of the exhalation for a few seconds. Next is to inhale through the right side slowly.
The next step is to hold both nostrils closed using the right ring finger and the right thumb. Then open the left nostril and breathe out slowly. Again, pause at the bottom of the exhalation for a few seconds. Repeat this breathing practice for about 5 to 10 cycles to have the body adjust, inhale, and exhale properly.
5) Three Part Breathing
The Three Part Breathing or the Dirga Pranayama benefits the body through the oxygenation of the blood, which may eventually relieve stress and even address high blood pressure. To start this pranayama technique, position yourself into a comfortable cross-legged position, then come down to lying on the back.
While lying down, relax the whole body and keep the legs outstretched. Focus on your breathing as you inhale and exhale without being distracted by the surroundings and by your thoughts. Start to inhale and exhale deeply through the nose. As you inhale, fill the stomach with air and as you exhale, bring out the air through the nose.
Repeat this first part this Pranayaman technique for about 5 times. The second part includes inhaling and filling the stomach with air to expand the rib cage. As you exhale, let the air from the rib cage go first then the air in the belly. Repeat this again for about 5 times.
In part three, breathe deeply to fill the tummy and rib cage with air, then sip in little more air to fill the upper chest. Upon exhalation, breathe out the air from the upper chest, the rib cage, and the stomach. Continue this for ten deep breaths.
Quick Benefits of Doing Proper Breathing
In general, Vinyasa yoga is a practice that promotes whole body well-being. Every part of the body needs oxygen for proper functioning. Proper and effective breathing provides mental clarity that can give you better sleep, better digestion, improved immune response, and reduced stress.
Incorporating Yoga Pranayama techniques is a useful tool to counter stress and to optimize the health benefits of Yoga. The Ujjayi or Victorious breath that comes with the Pranayama techniques allows a slow and smooth flow of breathing. This is why Pranayama is often used in hot yoga classes Singapore to help regulate breathing before the Yoga exercise.