Yoga Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

These yoga breathing techniques for meditation and relaxation offer several benefits, one of which is to help you breathe better. As those who practice yoga will attest, learning to breathe properly can take years of practice.

Proper Relaxation Breathing Techniques

  • Breathe Through Your Nose. Your nose contains natural filters that take away impurities in the air. It also contains a mucous membrane that climatizes the air by warming it and adding moisture to it.
  • Let the Air Fill All of Your Alveoli. The air must travel all the way down your larynx, trachea, bronchi, lung, and bronchiole. Once the air reaches your bronchiole, it should fill close to a billion alveoli. Alveoli are little sacs that get inflated if your breathing is deep enough. The importance of inflating these alveoli is based on the carbon dioxide/oxygen exchange that happens through blood vessels in the alveoli.
  • Diaphragm Your diaphragm is a muscle located below your lungs and it separates your chest cavity from your abdomen. When you inhale, your diaphragm stretches out to allow room for the air to fill your lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm curves upward to help push the air out.

Are You Breathing From the Chest or Diaphragm?

If you’re curious about your current breathing habits, here’s a quick test you can take that will immediately tell you what kind of breather you are. You need to stand in front of a mirror and be able to check your shoulder movement as you breathe.

  • Find the lower end of your sternum and place both your index fingers about 2 cm (1 inch) from the end of your sternum. Your index fingers should be lightly pressed against your chest and the tips in line with each other and barely touching. Inhale normally. Exhale normally. Look at your shoulders as you breathe. Did they move up and down? Did your fingers come apart?
  • If your fingers stayed in contact and your shoulders moved, it’s a clear sign that you are not breathing deep enough to maximize the benefits of breathing. You should work on your relaxation breathing techniques.
  • Now leave your fingers there and breathe as deeply as you can while mentally thinking about your diaphragm. Notice if your chest pushes the fingers further away. Ideally, your shoulders should not be involved when you breathe.

How Can You Improve Your Relaxation Breathing Techniques?

Practice, practice, and practice some more. How? Well, here’s how:

Stand with your feet shoulder apart and your arms hanging loosely on your sides. Concentrate on your breathing. Inhale while counting to four.

The speed doesn’t matter here, but keep in mind that the long-term goal will be to take more and more time to inhale and exhale.

Exhale, counting to four again. Inhale, and exhale. On your next inhale, bring your arms up so that by the time you reach “4”, your hands will be above your head. Exhale and gradually bring your arms back down to your sides by the time you reach “4”.

The movement of your arms will help promote a diaphragm movement while you breathe. Keep working on it. When you feel comfortable, add a 1-2 pause when your lungs are full and when they are empty.

If at any time you feel dizzy, you should stop and sit down.

Second Relaxation Breathing Technique

The second of these relaxation breathing techniques can be done while you are about to go to sleep. Lie down on your back with one hand on your chest.

Start by breathing normally (which will likely be chest breathing). Feel the motion of your chest.

With every breath, try to increase the quantity of air that you allow in and feel the difference in chest expansion. Mentally count from 1 to 4 as you inhale and from 1 to 4 as you exhale. Try to slow down your count until you reach the limits of comfortable breathing. This limit will be pushed with practice as you develop deeper and deeper breathing.

Once you reach a comfortable timing, try to add a 1-2 pause at the peak of your breath. Keep your lungs fully filled for 2 seconds, breathe out 1-4, then pause again for 2 seconds with your lungs empty before counting 1-4 as you inhale. This will require some practice, but don’t give up.

Yoga breathing, also known as pranayama, involves fully experiencing and understanding how our “prana” (aka “life force”) flows through our body during the breathing process, but I won’t get into that here. If you would like to learn more about Pranayama, I recommend the yoga breathing techniques from The Yogic Art of Breathing by B.K.S. Iyengar.

The goal of the breathing exercises shown below is to allow you to focus on your breath while doing some very light stretching exercises. The end result should be a more relaxed version of you!

You can practice these yoga breathing exercises whenever you want to relax or unwind in the comfort of your home.

Breathing in the Lotus Position

  • 1. Sit in the lotus position and place your hands on the floor as shown below.
Yoga breathing techniques in the lotus position
  • 2. Breathe in. Breathe out. On your next inhale, lift your arms and reach your fingertips above your head, as shown below. Try to lengthen your spine as your fingertips reach for the sky.
breathe out in the lotus position
  • 3. Exhale as you bring your arms down. Take as much time moving your arms as you take breathing.
  • 4. Repeat for 3 more breaths.

Yoga Breathing Techniques When Lying Down

  • 1. Lie on your back on a yoga mat. Place your knees as shown below.
yoga breathing exercise lying down
  • 2. As you inhale, bring your hips up, while keeping your shoulders on the mat. While you are in this position, take two full breaths.
breathing exercise in yoga while lying down
  • 3. Slowly roll down your spine back to the mat, one vertebra at a time, as you exhale.
  • 4. Repeat 3 more times.