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The Right Way to Breathe in Yoga

SeatedBreathingWhen I was in teacher training, we had a discussion on what “correct” yoga breathing is. This is a topic yoga teachers have heated debates over. There are two choices:

  • Inhale – expand belly first then chest
  • Inhale – expand chest first then belly

My teacher let the discussion run for a little while and then explained that the answer is “it depends”… on the purpose, i.e. what you are trying to accomplish.

However, the debate still continues among teachers …

Each Friday, I like to share information about yoga styles, news and trends that I hope you will find useful. When I find blogs that explain and/or clarify a yoga teaching, I like to share those as well.

Blog Share

In her blog, Yogic breathing: … what is the proper breathing technique? Olga Kabel does an excellent job of explaining the patterns and how to use them. She also addresses some confusion around anatomical terms. Her comments are directed to yoga teachers but you might find them interesting even if you don’t teach. Check out her blog. It’s definitely worth a read.


As an experiment, try the two methods. Come to a lying position on your back, legs extended and eyes closed. Take several normal breaths and begin to bring your attention inward. Try the first method – as you inhale expand your belly first then your chest. Allow your exhale to be natural and passive. Take several breaths then return to normal breathing. Reflect on how you are feeling.

Then try the second method – as you inhale expand your chest first then your belly. Again, let your exhale be natural and passive. Take several breaths before returning to normal breathing. Reflect on how you are feeling.

Cautions & Safety Tips

The most important thing to remember about yogic breathing – no matter which technique you use – is to never force your breath. It should never feel forced or like you are struggling for air. If you ever feel that way, it’s important to back off and breathe more gently. Yoga is not like exercise when you sometimes go anaerobic to increase endurance. That’s dangerous in yoga.

Also, keep your exhale at least equal to or longer than inhale so you do not inadvertently increase your blood pressure.

Let me know how your experimenting goes. I’d love to get your comments.

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Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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