A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years. -Swami Sivananda

Have you ever taken a Yoga class and the instructor is constantly talking about your breathing technique? If you are new to Yoga or just never understood why our breath is so important here is some good information (besides the fact it keeps us alive).

In any exercise that we are going to be increasing our heart rate or trying to keep our minds calm, we are instructed to consciously breathe, connect to our breath, breathe deeply, and retain our breath.

Conscious Breathing

Being able to breathe consciously is actually a lot more difficult than people seem to think. Conscious breathing is the essence of yoga because it assists us with connecting to the subtle energy within us. The breath helps us navigate through different levels of consciousness which helps our mental, emotional and physical state.

When you connect with any breathing technique, you are what Yoga calls “Being in the Present”. This is when you let go of the past and future and are continually focused on the present moment. Here are a couple breathing techniques I would love for you to try. These are great when you first wake up prior to a meditation or yoga routine and of course right before bed to help keep your mind at peace.

4 Count Breathing:

This is a great exercise to do when you are focusing on being present in the moment. First you want to sit up tall and comfortable. Relax your hands on your thighs or knees, close your eyes and breathe in and out of your nose. Take a few deep inhales/exhales to begin and on your last exhale really push all the air out. Now start the counting process: Take a deep inhale and count to four, you will then hold at the top of your breath for 1-4 more counts (don’t overstress this part). Take a deep exhale for another four count and hold again for 1-4 counts. Experiment to see how you feel holding your breath for those extra breaths. When you are finished open your eyes and come back to normal breathing. You may feel a little dizziness if you aren’t used to this kind of breath work and that is normal, but please do not over work yourself. If you feel uncomfortable please keep your eyes closed, relax and breathe regularly.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is probably one of my favorite breathing techniques. It really calms your mind and helps keep you focused on your breath. For those of you who have panic attacks, feel a lot of tension or overall stress; this will be a great exercise for you.

Sit up tall but comfortable on either your bed, chair or on a pillow on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs or knees, close your eyes and breathe in and out of your nose. Using your right hand, curl the first two fingers into your palm so your ring , pinky and thumb are pointing up. Place ring finger and pinky on the left side of your nose and the thumb on the right side. Close your right nostril with your thumb and take a deep inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger, keeping your right side closed also. Hold all the air in for a few moments and release your thumb, letting all the air out. Continue to alternate between each nostril. You have the option to incorporate the 4 Count method into this if you feel your mind is still wandering but if you are focusing on your technique hopefully you won’t need to count as well. You can do this for about 2-3 minutes and when you are done place your hands back onto your thighs and breathe normal.

Try one of these exercises out and let me know how you feel! They are really great daily practices you can do to start building up to a better meditation, yoga practice and even for cardio exercises. Always would love to hear your comments below on how you feel!