Lion's Breath

Last Updated: April 22, 2020

Definition - What does Lion's Breath mean?

Lion's Breath is a type of pranayama (breathing technique), used to release stress and tension from the body and mind. Although Lion’s Breath is generally practiced in simhasana (Lion Pose), it can be performed in any comfortable and stable position, whether seated or standing. The breath involves a forceful exhalation from the back of the throat, whilst extending the tongue from the mouth and rolling the eyes upwards. This gives the practitioner a fierce, lion-like expression, which alongside the roaring sound of the breath gives this pranayama its name.

Lion’s Breath is an energizing technique with both physical and mental benefits. It stretches the muscles and stimulates the nerves in the face, thereby relieving tension and improving circulation. It is also a warming breath, helping to increase internal fire in preparation for asana (postures). Lion’s Breath opens the Visuddha chakra, an energy centre in the throat, not only boosting confidence and the ability to utilize one’s voice, but simultaneously calming stress, anger and disquiet in the mind.

Yogapedia explains Lion's Breath

Traditionally, Lion's Breath is performed in simhasana, or Lion Pose, in which the practitioner is kneeling with the right ankle crossed over the left, and sitting with the perineum on top of the right heel. If this is too challenging, there are several alternatives, such as virasana (Hero Pose), sukhasana (Easy Pose), standing or even seated on a chair if necessary. The hands should rest on the thighs or knees with palms open and fingers spread widely, symbolic of a lion’s sharp claws.

The breath is performed by lowering the jaw to open the mouth wide, stretching the tongue out and curling it down. As a forceful exhalation is made through the mouth, the muscles at the front of the throat contract and the breath passes over the back of the throat with a roaring “haaaa” sound.

It is important to maintain a level of softness whilst practicing Lion’s breath so as not to strain the throat, and although some practitioners like to accompany the breath with a primal sound, there is in fact no requirement to use the vocal cords.

Whilst practicing Lion’s Breath, there is the option to include a drishti (gaze) at the spot between the eyebrows. Otherwise known as bhrumadhya drishti or ‘mid-brow gazing,’ this gaze helps to provide focus, concentration and freedom from distraction, whilst stimulating the third eye.

It is also possible to engage all three bandhas during Lion’s Breath; mula bandha (root lock), uddiyana bandha (abdominal or upward lifting lock) and jalandhara bandha (chin lock). Practicing the three together is otherwise known as maha bandha, but this should only be attempted by experienced practitioners..

Lion's Breath should be repeated at least three times for optimal benefit. If practicing in simhasana, it is important to change the cross of the ankles and practice the same amount of repetitions on the other side in order to achieve a sense of balance.

Since Lion’s Breath provides an ideal outlet for negative energy, anger and resentment, it is important that the exhalation is strong and full of intention. If practiced only half-heartedly, it is not possible to receive the empowering and releasing benefits of this breath.

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