How to do yoga breathing exercises

Interested in yoga breathing techniques but not sure where to begin? You can incorporate yoga breathing exercises into your workouts, of course, but they can also be woven into other moments of your day. They’ll help to improve your breathing capacity when you train. Ready?Take a deep breath!     

Yoga breathing exercises and techniques to try

Not everyone has the patience to spend a few minutes just sitting and breathing. Are you in that camp? It’s okay to admit it, as athletes, we all struggle with sitting still sometimes!

Athletes find that yoga breathing exercises can help to relieve tension, muscular pains and even calm the mind, which can all take their toll on physical performance. Yoga breathing is a great way to calm down, especially after a tough day or intense week.

But there’s more to yoga than just sitting and breathing; in fact, it encompasses a range of breathing techniques, all with different purposes. We’ll break it down for you!

What is pranayama & what are the benefits?

‘Breathing is life, and life is breathing,’ says Dr Manmath Manohar Gharote, a physician specialising in physical education and considered a leading expert on yoga.

According to Gharote, we are rarely consciously aware of our breathing unless we’re experiencing some sort of discomfort, or if we’re looking to improve our breathing as part of our fitness performance.

Yoga recognises the direct relationship between our breathing and our state of mind. Breathing is called ‘prana’, or the energy that exists on all planes. This energy is thought to promote strength and vitality. In yoga, the synchronisation of breath and movement is what makes yoga well ... yoga!

5 yoga breathing exercises

Yoga breathing is used throughout the entire session, but there are often periods set aside for practising breathing techniques, known as pranayama.

If you learn how to breathe like a yogi, you’ll be able to inhale and exhale more mindfully. Sounds good, right? These techniques can be transferred into your everyday life, to bring some zen to those stressful moments!

But what does all this have to do with fitness fans, amateur athletes and pro sportspeople? Put it this way: you’ve no doubt noticed that if your breathing gets out of whack when you’re training, you end up more tired and your performance can suffer as a result. See? Breathing properly is essential.

Let’s take a look at some yoga breathing exercises:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing techniques are a useful self-care tool to have in our arsenal if we want to stay calm and feel in control.

Here’s how! Sit comfortably in an upright posture, and place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your upper chest. When you breathe in, your abdomen should rise, but when you breathe out, it should fall. You might find that this doesn’t happen on your first attempt, but just concentrate and keep practising. Try counting to four on each inhale and exhale.

2. Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a means of controlling your breathing and ‘subtle energy clearing’. It can also help to quell anxiety and calm the mind.

The technique’s name is pretty self-explanatory: as you breathe, you keep switching between your nostrils. Give it a try!

Sit in a comfortable position, with your legs crossed, and place your left hand on your left knee. Raise your right hand towards your nose, breathe out completely, then press your right nostril closed with your right thumb.

Breathe in through your left nostril, then close that nostril with the fingers of your right hand. Open your right nostril and exhale through that side. Breathe in through your right nostril, close it, then breathe out through your left. Continue with this pattern for a little while. We have to admit…the first time we tried, we struggled a bit to coordinate! But like sport and like everything you’re doing, it will become much easier to do with a bit of practice and time. Can you do it without having to close your nostril with your finger? Now, that takes skills!

3. Resonant or coherent breathing

Resonant breathing is when you breathe at a rate of five full breaths per minute, while practising yoga. Achieving this rate means breathing in and out while counting to five.

Breathing at this tempo can even help lower your heart rate. Here’s how to do it:

● Breathe in for a count of five

● Breathe out for a count of five

● Continue with this breathing pattern for a few minutes

Feeling more relaxed? Because we definitely are!

4. Humming bee breath (bhramari)

Is your mind buzzing with thousands of tasks to do? Take some time, find a quiet corner and let yourself be consumed by the Bhramari Pranayama technique. This unique sensation of this humming bee breath can help you stay calm and keep calm.

Try this technique:

● Sit comfortably, close your eyes and relax your face

● Place your index fingers on the cartilage flaps that partially cover the entrance to your ear canals

● Breathe in, then, when breathing out, gently press down on the cartilage

● Keeping your mouth shut, make a loud humming noise like a bee

● Keep going for as long as it feels comfortable.

5. Pursed lip breathing

This simple technique is rated as a way to help slow down your breathing rate. And the best part is that you can do it whenever you fancy, including when you’re on the move, going up the stairs or doing exercise.

It’s an absolute cinch: simply relax your neck and shoulders, then, keeping your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose. Now put your lips together as though you’re about to whistle and breathe out slowly, blowing the air out through your puckered lips. Repeat a few times, and pick it up whenever the thought occurs to you during the day. Something to think about the next time you have to walk up that tough flight of stairs!

What are the benefits of breathing exercises?

So, now you’ve discovered (or rediscovered) some breathing techniques. But what are their benefits? Here are a few!

● They can increase lung capacity

● They may help keep you calm and focused

● They may help lower blood pressure

● They can improve your sleep

As a major fitness fan, you’ll know that taking care of your overall wellbeing plays a big part in enhancing your performance. And improving your breathing as you train is all part of the picture. Now, how about some practice? 1..2..3..4...

Written by: Green Park Content

Any medical advice and views expressed are those of the author; readers should obtain medical advice.


[1] Lima, Claudia. (2008). Benefícios dos exercícios respiratórios no yoga em mulheres adultas na faixa etária de 40 a 90 anos. Conexões. 6. 78-90. 10.20396/conex.v6i3.8637798.

[2] Tavares GM, Abreu AM, Pereira F et al. Manual de Yoga. Faculdade de Motricidade Humana da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa. Available at:

[3] Instituto Federal Paraíba. Respiração Diafragmática. Available at:

[4] Yoga International. Joyous Mind: The Practice of Nadi Shodhanam (Alternate Nostril Breathing). Available at:

[5] Chris C. Streeter, Patricia L. Gerbarg, Theodore H. Whitfield, Liz Owen, Jennifer Johnston, Marisa M. Silveri, Marysia Gensler, Carol L. Faulkner, Cathy Mann, Mary Wixted, Anne Marie Hernon, Maren B. Nyer, E. Richard P. Brown, and John E. Jensen.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Mar 2017. Available at:

[6] Grossman, E., Grossman, A., Schein, M.H., Zimlichman, R. and Gavish, B., 2001. Breathing control lowers blood pressure. Journal of human hypertension15(4), pp.263-269.


Curious to know more?