Just breathe ~ Jasmine Ho

Pranayama is the regulation of the breath through techniques and exercises while practising yoga. Breathing techniques are a vital portion of yoga practices. Proper breathing will ensure that our cells need oxygen to produce energy and subsequently transport the energy all over the body. During the weeks of training, I have been exposed to five different types of breathing, each having their own characteristics and benefits. The five types and their characteristics are as follow:

1) Ujjayi
Commonly known as “ocean’s breath”, this type of breathing is suitable and safe for everyone. It is really good for relaxation and it brings oxygen to the muscles so that one will not feel fatigue so easily. It helps to reduce stress, improve focus and mental clarity. In addition, it strengthens the lungs and balances the throat chakra as well. The distinguishing point of this breathing is that there is constriction at the throat during inhalation and exhalation when the air passes through the narrow passageway of the throat, which results in a “haaass” sound, just like the ocean.

I like to employ this technique of breathing during asana practice as it allows me to have a focus point while holding my asanas. It is also reassuring listening to the “haass” sound, allowing me to calm down.

2) Kapalabhati
The differentiating factor of this breathing technique is the movement of the stomach. This is carried out with normal inhalation and forceful exhalation of the breath through the nose. During the forceful exhalation, one will feel the stomach being pulled inwards.

I find it exhilarating to use this energizing breathing technique before I start power yoga practice or a practice focusing on core work. However, it is important to note that this type of breathing is not suitable for people with cardiac problem, ladies on their period and women who are pregnant.

3) Bhastrika
Another name for it is “Bellow’s Breath” and it is unsuitable for people with heart problems, ladies who are on their period and pregnant women. Some benefits include increase in blood circulation and metabolic rate and improve in digestion and lungs strength. The main characteristic is the active inhalation and exhalation with one’s ribs expanding and contracting. It is also normal to feel hot and slightly dizzy. Hence, it is not recommended to do after eating or before sleeping.

4) Bramari
Bramari is also fondly known as “Bumblebee” and it is suitable for everyone especially those with insomnia problem. Sounding like a bumblebee, one makes a “mmm” sound when inhaling and exhaling. Based on personal experience, it is so tough to hum when inhaling. I sound just like a screeching witch.

5) Anulom Vilom (Nadi Shodana)
The alternate nostril breathing is suitable for everyone. It is said to burn off bad karma from previous life, balance the left and right brain and balances chakra.

It is interesting to try out various breathing techniques during various styles of yoga practice. What are you favourites? Let’s share!