The role of breath is very important in yoga. Breath is, quite literally, life.

In yoga, the breath equates to prana, and prana means life force. The breath can give us life or it can take away our life.

When we breathe during yoga, we infuse our body with oxygen. Oxygen gives energy to our whole body, so on a physical level, the breath is extremely important. Ever tried exercising or going for a brisk walk while you hold your breath?

On an energetic level, slowing down and moderating our breathing during our yoga practice gives our mind something to focus on. Many people find that their “busy monkey minds” are instantly quieted simply by paying attention to the breath. You’ll feel calmer and less anxious.

So how should we breathe when we do yoga? Well, that depends on what exactly we are doing during the class. But here are some general guidelines:

-Unless the teacher is instructing you to do so, never hold your breath during class (Never ever hold your breath if you are pregnant)

-The breath should be calm, smooth and relaxed

-Relax your facial muscles as you breathe

-Breathe both in and out through your nostrils. Close your mouth. Practice Ujjayi breath if you know it.

-Your inhalation should happen on the exerting part of the pose (think contracting, lifting, exerting effort, etc.); the exhalation should happen on the relaxing part of the pose (think releasing, coming down, etc.)

-Most of us breathe with only the upper portion of our lungs. Breathe with your whole lungs. Think of your belly expanding slightly as you inhale, contracting slightly as you exhale. See if you can inhale into the sides of your waist and your mid back where your bra line would be. Completely empty your lungs as you exhale.