The life of your yoga practice – Pranayama

Pranayama is the generic term for many different breathing exercises practiced both by them selves and while practicing asana.

  • Prana means: Life force
  •  Yama means : control
  • Ayama means: expansion or without resistance.




At Twist we focus on your breath during almost every posture. You maybe asking what exactly are you trying to focus on?

At first you should just use these cues to remember that you should be breathing. When you hold your breath it is a sign that you are going too far into the posture and not truly being aware of what is going on in your body.  As a beginner learning to breathe through your nose for an hour or longer is a technique that maybe as unfamiliar as standing on one leg. Some yoga styles do not even teach breathing techniques until you are comfortable with the asana (posture). While others teach pranayama before they will teach you a single asana.  I believe that focusing on your breath gives you more awareness in your practice.   If your body responds best this way then start with your breathing, but if trying to focus on how to breathe “right” distracts you from your practice to greatly; then get familiar in the postures first and then change your focus to your breath.


Discovering the Art of Conscious Breathing:


1) Begin by learning to isolate your breath separately in each of the lungs 3 champers. This technique I call 3 part breathing.      

A) Lower diaphragm breathing or belly breathing (laying down)

B) Chest breathing, filling the ribs and back body (sitting up)

C) Upper chest breathing (this is where most of us normally breathe)


2) Completely inhale filling all 3 chambers and hold your breath. Keep your stomach muscles firm, then slowly and evenly exhale.  This takes practice, so be patient.


3) Now completely exhale (totally empty) and hold your breath. This is more difficult, without gasping inhale slowly and evenly.


4) Next marry your even exhalation to your effortless inhalation.


5) Now practice continuously (without pausing) for a few minutes at a time, making a concentrated effort to match the length of your inhales and exhales. Over time you will increase the    duration of time you can keep this up.


Deepen your breath in your practice.

This is sometimes called 80/20 breathing.

Backbends are supported by inhaling completely, then exhaling and inhaling only from the upper chest or top chamber while holding your breath in the belly and chest.


Forward folds are supported by exhaling completely and again inhaling and exhaling only in the upper chest, while holding the breath out of the lower chambers of the lungs.


Advancing your Breathing:

Ujjayi breathing: Ujjayi or victorious breathing is done many different ways depending on the lineage of yoga you are practicing. All forms of this breath help to build awareness, and build heat in the body. At Twist we focus on 2 forms.

1) Soft Ujjayi breath: We practice this in Flame, Bamboo and Stone classes.
To practice Ujjayi breath begin with conscious 3 part breathing. Then try to whisper without opening your mouth. Feel this tightness in your throat that is actually your glottis contracting. Now all you do is stop whispering and keep your throat contracted while you take full deep slow breaths.

2) Noisy or Fierce Ujjayi breathing: This Ujjayi practice is much louder, some people think it sounds like Darth Vader. We practice this form at the beginning of each Flame, and the entire Breeze and Wave Class. Begin by mastering the soft ujjayi breath. Progress from soft to fierce by placing your tongue near the back of the roof of your mouth, you will feel your soft pallet. To create the noise in Fierce Ujjayi you lift the soft pallet to create a snoring or tornado sensation in the back of your mouth. You should not be making any noise with your vocal chords, this is a common mistake of beginners.