3 Simple Breathing Practices to Change How You Feel

3 Simple Breathing Practices to Change How You Feel

Many people understand how 5 deep breaths can shift you from feeling stressed to feeling calm. But did you know that Pranayama (yoga breathing practices) can be used for more than just calm? Different types of breath control can help you clear brain fog, cool you down (think menopausal hot flashes), or help you feel more energized. Of course there are also practices that help you manage anxiety and stress, but that is a post for another day.

The 3 styles of Pranayama that I will discuss here are Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath), Sitali (Cooling Breath), and Ha Kriya (for improved energy). If you would like to see a video demonstration of these breathing practices, please click here.

Kapalabhati/Skull Shining Breath

This breathing practice is an energizing practice, and is wonderful at clearing the fog to help you think more clearly (and clears your sinuses–have tissues handy). The basic idea is to have a forceful exhale and a passive inhale, all through the nose. When you force the air out, then relax your abdomen, the air automatically comes back in. The diaphragm does all the work.

It’s common, at first, to worry about getting enough breath. You will get enough breath, but it’s not a full deep breath. The more you relax through this process, the easier it is to do.

How to do Kapalabhati breathing

  1. Start seated in a comfortable position, either on the floor, on a meditation cushion or blanket, or in a chair. You want to be able to have a straight spine, with your hips higher than your knees, and your knees supported.
  2. Take a full, deep breath in through the nose, then let it all the way out, back through the nose.
  3. Inhale halfway, the begin, exhaling forcefully then relaxing. Have it be an even rhythm. Start slowly to get the movement, then as it is more comfortable you can speed up a bit.
  4. Start with just 30 seconds, working your way up to 3 minutes.
  5. Finish by slowing down the rhythm, taking one final exhale, then intentionally taking a deep breath in, then a slow breath out. Notice how you feel.

Sitali Breath/Cooling Breath

This pranayama practice is great for the Summertime when you feel overheated, or during peri/menopause when you are plagued by hot flashes and/or night sweats. This is a simple way to cool down, and it doesn’t take much time. If you feel that hot flash coming on, start this breathing practice and see if you can stave it off!

Traditionally this practice is done through a rolled tongue but not everyone can roll their tongue. Like everything else in yoga, there’s a modification! If you are someone who can’t roll your tongue, simply make an “O” with your lips and inhale through that instead. The idea is that the cool air coats your tongue as you inhale, and that cools you down.

How to do Sitali breathing

  1. Start seated in a comfortable position, either on the floor, on a meditation cushion or blanket, or in a chair. You want to be able to have a straight spine, with your hips higher than your knees, and your knees supported.
  2. Either roll your tongue into a tube or make an “O” with your lips.
  3. Take a full inhale through the tube, then close your mouth and exhale through your nose. You will notice a difference in the temperature of your breath moving in vs. moving out. Make your inhales slow and deep, release your exhale slowly, making sure you release all the air you took in.
  4. Continue for 1-3 minutes (start with a shorter period of time and build up to longer).
  5. Finish by returning to normal breathing and notice how you feel.

Ha Kriya

This comes from the Kundalini style of yoga and is about releasing energy blockages and feeling stronger and more powerful in your body. This breathing practice combines body movements and breath and is a practice that should be done without self-consciousness. Like Kapalabhati there is a forceful exhale, but you are making a “HA” sound, coordinating your breath with movement.

If you have shoulder limitations, you can either modify how high your reach your arms, or just reach the arms forward for the whole sequence. The full sequence is 36 total breaths. Although this Kriya is traditionally done standing, this can be done seated in a chair as a modification.

The arms reach over your head on the inhale, then you pull your elbows down as you exhale. That alternates with reaching the arms forward as you inhale, and pulling the elbows in toward the body on the exhale.

How to do Ha Kriya

  1. Start standing with your feet comfortably apart and your knees slightly bent, like a Horse stance. If you prefer to sit, sit at the edge of a firm chair with your feet apart and your knees over your feet.
  2. Reach your arms over your head as you inhale. Exhale through your mouth sounding “HA!” as you pull your elbows down by your lower ribs and make fists with your hands. Repeat this 8 times.
  3. Repeat this process, but now reach your arms forward in front of your chest as you inhale. Exhale sounding “HA” while pulling the elbows into your ribs, making fists. Repeat this 8 times.
  4. Continue this process, reaching upward 4 times, forward 4 times, upward twice, forward twice, then up and forward alternating for 8 total times.
  5. After your final exhale, relax your arms and take a deep breath in, then let it out. Notice how you feel.

Join me!

If you would like to learn how to add breathing practices into your daily life, join me for 30 Days to Reconnect to Yourself. This online program teaches you simple, easy to incorporate techniques to help you feel more connected to yourself, and less on autopilot. Gain control over your thoughts and actions and reclaim your life! Click this link to sign up! Registration is open, this course begins September 5, 2023!

Diving Deeper into Your Yoga Practice is an 8 month program to explore yoga both on and off the mat. Learn the 8 limbs of yoga and how to apply them to your daily life, to live more peacefully and mindfully. Click here for more information or to sign up! This course begins in mid-October, and will be both online and in person once a month.

Join me daily for online yoga, meditation, mindful core and stretching classes for all levels! Click this link to see the full class schedule, or this link for the On Demand Video Library. Fall Schedule begins September 5th!

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