Yogis have known for years what science is just discovering – that is, that you can manage your mood through various yogic breathing techniques.  If your mindfulness practice is struggling because you are feeling sleepy, distracted, or anxious, these breathing techniques will help you achieve a calm and focused state of mind.

1. UJJAYI – Victorious Breath or Ocean Sounding Breath for Centering Mind and Body

Ujjayi breathing is an effective pranayama (or breathing) technique for stress relief and can be a useful tool when feeling anxious. The word ujjayi means mastery. This breathing technique will allow you to quiet the mind and quickly reduce anxiety – in as little as two or three minutes.

To practice, breathe in and out steadily through your nose with a slightly constricted throat. This will produce an ocean-sounding breath where you can focus all of your attention. You may even get the sensation of being on the beach, listening to the waves wash in and out. With practice, your energy and mind will become calm and clear.

2. NADI-SHODHANA – Alternate- Nostril Breathing for Balancing Energy

Practiced for centuries by yogis, this particular breathing technique has been scientifically studied and has been shown to affect the different hemispheres of the brain.  It is likely that this breath helps balance the nasal cycles – the natural cycling we experience throughout the day where one nostril is more constricted than the other, causing the other nostril to be dominant. Right nostril-dominant breathing has an energizing affect, where left nostril-dominant breathing is relaxing. Nadi-Shodhana means purification (shodhana) of the nerve currents (nadis). The nadis are metaphorical nerve channels in the energy body through which prana (life-force) flows.

Alternate-nostril breathing is a great way to counteract physical and mental tension. By regulating and lengthening the breath, we release pent up tension and calm the mind.  This breath is slightly energizing and gives you the sensation of just having a cup of coffee – without the jitters!

Find detailed instructions for practicing nadi-shodhana here.

3. KAPALABHATI- Cleansing Breath for Raising Energy and Clearing the Mind

Seventy-five percent of the toxins in our bodies are released through respiration – that is, if we are breathing deeply and fully. Kapalabhati breathing is a great exercise to practice first thing in the morning as a cleansing routine, or any time of the day when you are feeling sluggish. Kapala means forehead or skull, while bhati means cleansing. In this breathing technique your lungs work like bellows, pumping air forcefully in and out. Breathing in this manner cleanses the system, calms the mind, and generates prana (life-force) throughout the body.

This is an advanced breathing technique that helps to purify the blood, strengthen circulation, and cleanse the entire respiratory system. Navigate here for more details.

Play with these three breathing techniques and take note of how they affect your mindfulness practice.

For additional mindful breathing practices, click here.

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