Just like a new year, every inhale is considered a new beginning. The beauty of the breath is that it’s cyclical, rooting us to the essence of life. Eckhart Tolle said “One conscious breath—in and out—is a meditation,” and I think those words couldn’t be more true.

In yoga, we’re encouraged to draw attention to the breath along with the asanas—helping us meditate and look inward. Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga and considered the core of the practice, but you don’t have to be doing yoga to experience the benefits of deep and mindful breathing.

(Here's how Conscious Breathing Will Boost Your Yoga Practice.)

When I first started meditating each morning, I began incorporating breathing into my practice. I’m not talking about just ordinary, subconscious breathing. I mean the full, deep breaths that make us feel different. Taking time to breathe in a conscious way has countless benefits. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, can help control stress and promote muscle relaxation, to name a few.

There are many types of breathing you can incorporate for different benefits, and they all have positive outcomes for the mind, body and soul. Along with the other Eight Limbs of Yoga, learning to breathe consciously can help restore balance and inner peace.

Here are three types of breathing exercises you can incorporate into your morning routine.

Getting Started

Like me, you may be familiar with some of these breathing techniques from yoga classes. But before you get started, it’s always important to sit comfortably and to take a few relaxed breaths. Take an elongated inhale and notice how you feel. Now exhale just as deeply. Doesn’t it feel like you’re welcoming transformation and change? You can start with 10 seconds and build to longer increments of time as your body is ready. Always ensure your breathing is even.

Full Belly Breathing

Breathing with your belly may conjure an interesting mental image because you are so used to breathing with your lungs. This type of breathing is also known as deep breathing or abdominal breathing because it originates from the diaphragm—the region below the lungs. When you practice full belly breathing, you become more conscious of your breath, helping you to relax almost instantly. You can almost feel the tension leaving your body.

(More on Exhaling Muscle Pain & Tension: 3 Benefits of Yogic Breathing (Plus a Sample Exercise).)

  • Start seated or standing.
  • Place one hand on your abdominal region and relax the muscles.
  • Slowly inhale through the nose, filling your lungs, rib cage and collar bones.
  • At the height of your breath, take a short pause before exhaling gently from the top of your lungs to the bottom.
  • Contract the abdominal muscles and push the rest of the air out.
  • Repeat for five to 10 minutes until it comes naturally.

Ujjayi Breathing

Typically practiced together with asanas, ujjayi breathing, or ocean breath, is perhaps one of the most common forms of pranayama. It’s a gentle breath in and out through the nostrils. The only difference is that on the exhale, you make a “haaaah” sound with the mouth closed, which sounds like ocean waves. One of the main aims of this type of breathing is to soothe the mind and soul. Focus should be on quality of the breath, instead of ingesting more air. While it sounds relatively simple, it can be difficult to master.

  • Start in a seated position.
  • Keeping the mouth closed, inhale deeper than normal through the nostrils.
  • Constrict your throat so that on the exhale, you make a “haaaah” sound that originates from the back of your throat.
  • Repeat for five to 10 minutes until it comes naturally.

Kapalbhati Breathing

Kapalbhati breathing, also known as skull shining breath, is a more advanced and intense type of breathing that’s known to cleanse and release toxins. It consists of alternating inhales and short, powerful exhales. It’s similar to blowing out a candle. The exhales come from the lower diaphragm, which releases air from the lungs. When beginning this technique, it’s helpful to place one hand on the abdomen.

  • Start seated on the floor with crossed legs.
  • Begin with the simple breath work, such as deep belly breathing, to establish a regular rhythm.
  • Take a long inhalation and contract the lower abdominals.
  • Once this feels natural, inhale more sharply and exhale with the lips pressed together. Focus on using only the nose.
  • Repeat for 10 cycles or longer.

Good Morning, Sunshine

Regular deep breathing has so many benefits for the mind, body and soul, such as stress relief and relaxation. The good news is that deep breathing can be done anywhere for as little as a few minutes each day. Welcome the morning with some deep breathing and feel the difference it makes on the rest of your day.

(Now you may be interested to try Linking Breath and Mantra.)