Establishing a morning breathing practice is a quick and potent way to boost your health and prepare for a successful day. They’re easy enough to fit into your daily routine and they can help you wake up feeling energized and ready to take on the world! You can practice these just about anywhere at anytime—in your bed upon waking, or sitting in your car right before or after your commute. By adding a few minutes of pranayama to your morning routine, you can feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and energized to tackle whatever comes and you’ll get more done throughout the day. The first step is to choose which of these six techniques works best for you.
What is a morning breathing practice?
Morning breathing is a mindful and conscious practice of one or more breath based exercises for a few minutes in the morning. These are usually practiced in a seated position, but you can practice them lying in bed or standing. The goal of adding some deep breathing exercises to your morning routine is to give you a boost of energy, focus, and calm for your day ahead.
Benefits of morning breathing exercises
We can summarize the importance of morning breathing practice in one word: awareness. When we are aware of the present moment, our mind and body become more relaxed and balanced. We feel better throughout the day because we have started out the day with a few minutes to calm and center the mind and emotions. This helps us to stay focused on what’s important rather than being distracted by things that don’t matter. It also allows for greater clarity when deciding about how best to spend your time.
Pranayama uses unique patterns of breath to bring about several physical and mental health benefits, such as increased oxygen and blood flow, reduced blood pressure, improved lung capacity, better concentration, and greater calmness. When you practice mindful breathing, your attention shifts to the present moment. This is a powerful way to reduce stress and worry, as you are not thinking about the past or future or what you should do next. Just a few mindful and slow deep breaths in the morning can boost your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and help prep you for a fantastic day.
Chest breathing vs. diaphragmatic breathing
Chest breathing and shallow breathing often contribute to anxiety and stress in the body. When we are nervous or anxious, our heart rate increases, blood pumps more quickly through the arteries, and oxygen levels decrease. This causes us to breathe faster than normal and take shorter breaths. This can create shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and muscle tension. You’re more likely to breathe from your chest during stressful times, especially if you’ve been feeling stressed lately. If this happens often enough, it may lead to panic attacks.
Morning breathing exercises are a great way to increase your awareness of unhealthy chest breathing and shallow breathing patterns. Once aware, you can consciously shift to a diaphragmatic breathing pattern to calm down the nervous system, focus your mind, and center your emotions.
By practicing diaphragmatic breathing before going into work, you’ll find yourself feeling calmer and less stressed. If you do this every morning, you may notice that you experience fewer episodes of panic attacks, anxiety and/or depression. With consistent practice, you can make diaphragmatic breathing your default pattern.
How long should a morning breathing practice last?
If you are new to pranayama, it is recommended that you start with 2-5 minutes of belly breathing. After you have been practicing yoga and breathwork for some time and feel comfortable with the practices, then try increasing your practice to 10 or 15 minutes. You can always increase the duration of your session as needed. You may be able to get by with shorter periods of time if you are feeling enough of the benefits to get you through the day with peace and calm.
7 Morning Breathing Exercises
There are several deep breathing techniques to choose from that you can use to help correct your breathing and improve your morning routine. Each technique has a different energetic and physical effects, so experiment and find the one that works best for your needs.
1. Diaphragmatic Breath
The diaphragmatic breath is the foundational breathing exercise for beginners to learn and practice. Also known as belly breathing, as the belly will rise and fall while the chest remains still when taking slow deep breaths. This meditative abdominal breathing exercise reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and increases lung capacity and efficiency.
2. Three-Part Breath
Perfect for beginners, the three-part breathing method is traditionally known as Dirga Pranayama and builds on the diaphragmatic breath. It’s considered one of the most calming breathing techniques as it allows you to clear your mind by focusing all of your attention on how your breath moves through the abdomen and chest. Many people believe is possible to relieve chronic stress and prevent panic attacks with the regular practice of this breathing technique.
3. Box or Square Breath
A more advanced counting ratio method combining diaphragmatic breathing and breath retention is Sama Vritti Pranayama. It is known as square, equal, or Box breathing as it uses a 4-4-4-4 ratio. This pranayama practice equalizes, harmonizes and balances the prana flowing through the body’s nadis or energy channels. This four-part breathing technique is primarily practiced for calming and balancing the mind and body to reduce mental stress and worry. Sama Vritti can also help slow down the heart rate, increase oxygen to the brain, and reduce anxiety.
4. Alternate Nostril Breath
Nadi Sodhana Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing uses your fingers to close one nostril and breath out the other. Alternate nostril breathing is calming and balancing and settles the mind, body, and emotions. This practice is especially good for calming excessive worry and reducing stress and anxiety.
5. Ocean Sounding Breath
During Ujayi Pranayama you constrict the back of the throat to create the sound of the Ocean or make a “Darth Vader” voice. This naturally slows down the breath, which calms the nervous system. It is also warming and energizing to the body. The practice is done slowly and deeply, without any strain. Ujjayi breathing helps release feelings of irritation and frustration, and boosts a sense of presence and self-awareness.
6. Skull Shining Breath
Khapalabati Pranayama is considered an advanced technique that is performed by quickly exhaling through the nose. It is a strongly energizing technique, so it’s a great addition to your morning routine. It is traditionally practiced to purify and cleanse the brain and mind and to increase lung strength. It is also known as the breath of fire, as it is warming to the body. When performing this technique, focus on the sensation of lightness created within the head and upper chest.
7. Chanting Breath
Chanting breathing is a simple yet effective way to calm yourself when stressed. In Udgeeth Pranayama, you simply chant the “Om” mantra with slow belly breaths. This pranayama helps strengthen mental concentration and focus and also helps reduce negative thoughts and emotions.
Morning Breathing Tips
- Make sure you are seated in a comfortable position for the practice.
- If you feel dizzy or experience any discomfort, stop and sit quietly until you feel better.
- Don’t force anything; take things at your own pace and ability.
- Try to keep your eyes closed during pranayama.
- Focus only on your breath moving into and out of your lungs.
- Make sure you have enough sleep. Even the most energizing pranayama cannot compensate for sleep deprivation.
- If you are new to pranayama, start small. Start with 2-5 minutes and then slowly and gradually work up to 10–15 minutes per session.
- For the best results, combine your pranayama practice with a morning yoga session.
- Be patient. You should notice some results after a few days, but it could take you weeks, months, or even years before you see progress. The most important thing is to keep practicing on a daily basis.
- If you’re new to pranayama and have a medical condition, please consult your doctor before starting.
How to choose the right breathing technique for you
There are so many types of breathing techniques that are available, making it difficult to know which are the best. With pranayama, there is no one right technique that will work for everyone. Various breathing techniques have different benefits and can help you achieve different things. First, take some time to get clear on what benefits you want from your practice. Next, start with the breathing technique that aligns best with your goals and feels the most natural for you. Note how each exercise makes you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally. Use a journal or other means to track which techniques have the strongest effect on your energy and mood. Experiment and make adjustments as needed.