In yoga, breathwork is just as important as movement—it's what guides us through the practice, inspires more mindfulness and generally calms us down, throughout yoga and in everyday life. Studies have shown that controlled breathing, or pranayama in Sanskrit, can even help with improving focus, strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. In other words, it's a no-brainer!
We asked yogi Aubry Marie to guide us through a few of her favorite breathing techniques for energy and relaxation. Practice them throughout the day or pick and choose based on what you need in the moment. And just a reminder: take caution when practicing breathwork and consult your physician if you have any concerns.
When you need to wake up...
What: Vacuum (Uddiyana Bandha)
Why: This is a great way to start your day, wake up your core, prep for inversions and work towards Nauli Kriya, an ancient cleansing breathing exercise. Feel like you and your core aren’t communicating? Try this.
How: Start out lying on your back, seated or standing. If you’re new to Uddiyana Bandha, start on your back. Seal your lips, plug your nose and attempt a mock inhale—this should drive the belly button up and in. Hold your breath as long as you can comfortably and try to replicate that seated and standing. Use your hands to push into your knees, creating tension and deepening the vacuum.
When you need to focus...
What: Wim Hof
Why: It saturates your body with oxygen and generates energy and focus, among many other benefits. Sluggish morning? Big presentation? Physically demanding task? Try this.
How: Start seated in a comfortable space. Close your eyes and relax your body. In this method, it doesn’t matter whether you breathe in and out of your nose or mouth. Cycle through 30 rounds of breath, like you're blowing up a balloon—a powerful inhale that fills the belly up followed by a powerful exhale. Make it audible. Next, inhale without force and exhale effortlessly, allowing the diaphragm to drop and holding your breath until you can't resist the urge to take in air. This is what I think of as a “reset and hold” breath. Lastly, draw in air to your lungs, so they're at full capacity and hold this for about 10 seconds.
When you need to relax...
What: Conscious Breathing
Why: It's calming and grounding. About to meditate? Anxiety? Nerves? Not tired but you should be? Try this.
How: Start seated in a comfortable space. Root down through your sit bones while rising through your crown and drop your shoulders—you’re looking for a long, tension-free spine. Close your eyes. The goal here, ironically, is to lose track of time and repetitions while calming anxiety and tension. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a long, slow, deep breath in, silently counting 1, 2, 3, etc. Exhale. Attempt to make the inhale and exhale the same length and even aim to increase the duration of both. Throw in an occasional audible, effortless, open-mouth exhale.
Continue for as long as you’d like or need.