If you are engaged in yoga, even at a very beginner level, you know that pranayama, or controlled breath, is a critical component of your yoga practice. But did you know that the practice of yoga itself can help people with breathing problems?
All yoga poses will help you to become more mindful of your body, which in turn helps breathing. But if you are one of the many people who experience difficulty with breathing, here are a few poses in particular that can help you breathe deeper and easier on and off the mat.
Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose
Cobra pose is ideal for beginners who are hoping to begin building flexibility in the chest, back, and belly. It helps you to open your chest and give you a better awareness of your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe more consciously.
One of the best things about cobra pose is how easily it is modified for different body types, levels of flexibility, and degrees of experience. Rather than pushing for the most extreme backbend possible, extend your arms until the arch feels significant; your body will tell you where your natural range of motion ends.
This means that you can continue to focus on taking good breaths while practicing, rather than simply stretching for the sake of stretching. By practicing cobra pose in this way, you’ll improve your breathing technique as well as your flexibility at a sustainable rate over time, and avoid the risk of injury.
Ustrasama: Camel Pose
We spend so much of our time hunched over our phones and computer screens, leaving us with not-so-great posture that causes back pain and restricts breathing. Camel pose opens the front of the torso (as well as the thighs, shoulders, and hips) and allows it to expand, giving you the freedom of movement to breathe deeply.
Camel pose can be challenging for beginners, and it’s not unusual for it to feel uncomfortable at first. Those practicing this asana for the first time may find they need to place one hand at a time. Initially, it may (ironically) feel difficult to breathe in the pose, but this feeling should pass with a little practice. Using blocks or other modifications can help make this pose feel more accessible to yoga practitioners who are just starting out.
Balasana: Child’s Pose
Why child’s pose? It’s not strenuous, doesn’t do much to promote flexibility, and requires no strength. Almost nobody measures their progress in yoga by their ability to hold child’s pose. It’s more like a sweet reward at the end of a challenging practice than an exercise itself. How on earth can something so simple be very helpful?
Quite simply, child’s pose is where you learn to come back to yourself. You’re not going through life in a backbend or a handstand. At some point, you need to stop and recover and remember how to live in your body in whatever shape it’s in. Child’s pose is one that can be held for an experience of time, giving you the chance to reflect on what it actually feels like to be breathing. It’s an easy-to-overlook pose, but a critical one nevertheless.