The breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. In yoga it's very important, laying the foundation for the different types of movements that you do during class.
The type of breath that you use in yoga differs by practice and the particular flow that you're working on. The different styles of breathing in yoga have different benefits. Some give you more energy and strength in your poses, while some help you relax and melt into positions.
Pranayama is the Sanskrit word that refers to breath work in yoga. "Prana" means "life force" and "yama" means "to control", so pranayama means to control the breath. When you work on your breath in yoga you are deliberately changing the way you breathe to help you with whatever pose you're in.
Normally, breathing is involuntary, meaning you don't have to think about breathing all the time. Instead, your nervous system regulates your breath so that you can focus on other things.
By focusing on your breath in yoga you gain more control over your body. For example, breathing shallow breaths rapidly, like a panting dog, increases your heart rate, giving you energy. This type of breathing might be done before your practice starts to make you more awake and alert.
A slow, calm breath decreases your heart rate and makes you more relaxed — such as at the end of practice in Savasana. Pairing the correct breath with your yoga practice helps you get the most out of every pose.
Breathing exercises recommended
Ujjayi The next form of breath control is the most commonly practiced in yoga. Ujjayi breath means “victorious breath” in Sanskrit and is sometimes called the “ocean breath.” Ujjayi breath is an audible breath. This is formed by partially closing the epiglottal passage or slightly closing the throat. Much like Samavrtti, this breath is even. To practice Ujjayi close your mouth and breath in slowly and continuously for four counts. Exhale in the same manner, keeping the breath in through the nose. This form of breath control is said to help tone the internal organs, improve concentration, and more.
Kumbhaka: This is the practice of holding one’s breath, which is where this form draws its name. Kumbhaka in Sanskrit means “to retain the breath”. Continuing to build on the pranayama previously described, begin with Ujjayi. Once you have established a comfortable rhythm, hold your breath for four to eight counts in between every four breaths. In the beginning your Kumbhaka or retention should start off shorter. As you become more practiced in this art, begin increasing the retention. Also one may begin to reduce the number of breaths in between the retentions. Kumbhaka is believed to strengthen the diaphragm, restore energy and cleanse the respiratory system.
Benefit of breath holding exercises
Improved circulation brings more blood to your brain and heart (vasodilation), allows more air to enter your lungs (bronchdilitation), calms your nervous system, reduces your need and craving for heavy, processed and acid food, also including Activate Stem Cells, Lower Blood Pressure, Reduce Inflammation, Turn Off Stress, Lose Weight, Live Longer, Become Stronger, Happier & Healthier.