How do we control our breath?

Q:

How do we control our breath?

A:

Breath control is one of the most fascinating and even slightly offbeat aspects of the yoga tradition. We do it for longevity, because our breath is inextricably linked to our minds, our nervous systems and even our heartbeat. Breath control, and the ability to elongate one’s breath, is believed to be one of the keys to long life and one of the many health benefits that makes yoga so incredibly well-rounded.

The primary vehicle used to control the breath lies in the pranayama practice. Pranayama is the limb of yoga that has to do with a myriad of various breathing techniques. Some are complex and some are downright simple, but all of them are effective. (Learn more in The Practice of Pranayama.)

As yogis, we aim to control our breath and slow it down, because having a longer, deeper and slower breath leads to a more relaxed nervous system, a clearer mind and reduced anxiety. (Read about How to Release Anxiety Using Breath.)

Some of the best ways to control your breath are through practices like nadi shodhana, complete yogic breath and simple ujjayi. We can also work with breath control every time we take to our yoga mat. In vinyasa yoga, we link each inhale to a body movement and each exhale to yet another movement. Moving the body and breath in tune to one another is a really powerful way to begin your work with breath control. This is the reason most yoga classes start with physical asana, with the teacher queuing inhalations and exhalations. (Learn more in The Power of Vinyasa.)

As we advance as yogis, we then sit and practice pranayama. Breath control is a really wide and varied aspect of yoga, and the more you practice, the more advanced you become. Pranayama techniques (like yoga poses) range from beginner to advanced. So, breath control is a never-ending journey, just like the journey of the physical yoga practice.

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Written by Aimee Hughes
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Aimee is a yogi and writer who's been practicing yoga daily for nearly two decades. Since a journey to India when she was 20, the practice has been her constant companion. She loves exploring the vast and seemingly endless worlds of yoga. Aimee has also written a book called, "The Sexy Vegan Kitchen: Culinary Adventures in Love & Sex," available on Amazon. Full Bio