Types of Breathing Exercises

Take your breath image by Christophe Schmid from Fotolia.com

Because breathing is an automatic action, exercising your respiratory muscles may not be on your fitness radar. But there are many types of breathing exercises, many of them part of a yoga practice, and each has its health benefits. Different breathing exercises will tone your internal capacity to breathe deeper, ease tension and improve the strength of your diaphragm and lungs.

Ujjayi Breathing

Ujjayi breathing is a technique that engages the abdominal muscles. You breathe in through your nose and out through your nose, narrow the throat passage or glottis so the airway is tighter, and create a rushing sound that mimics the sound of the ocean. The body benefits because it increases your intake of oxygen, slows the breath, helps build energy and maintains an increased pressure in the abdomen area to support the spine.

Skull Brightener Breath

Skull Brightener Breath is a Pranayama technique that purifies the nasal passages and lungs by contracting and releasing the lower belly to pump powerful cleansing breaths throughout the body. Pranayama is the yogic regulation of breath, and the practice enhances control of the vital energy that is within each breath. Practicing the Skull Brightener Breath breathing exercise massages the organs and rejuvenates the body with new blood, fluids and oxygen.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Clearing the channels of circulation is an internal breathing exercise that reduces mental tension linked to anxiety and insomnia. Another Pranayama technique, the breathing exercise is also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing. Alternate Nostril Breathing balances the body and mind and calms the nervous system by switching the inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils one at a time. Block the left nostril and breathe in through the right. Open the left nostril, block the right nostril and breathe out.The breathing exercise lowers your heart rate and, according to "Yoga Journal," synchronizes the right and left halves of the brain.

Lion's Breath

Lion pose is a breathing exercise in which, on the exhale, you open your mouth wide, extend your tongue outward, stretch the tongue tip toward the chin and make the sound "ha," like a lion’s roar. It is also a basic jaw stretch that eases tension in the face. It tones the platysma muscle that controls the front of the throat, works the corners of the mouth down and tightens throat skin.

Upside Down Breathing

Gravity helps make it easier to fully exhale when the body is upside down. When you are upright, gravity works against the diaphragm's full extension. Legs-up-the-wall pose is a basic yoga inversion that deepens the respiratory rhythm and opens the spine, chest and diaphragm. Inversion exercises strengthen the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, slow the heart rate and decrease your blood pressure--all making the body relaxed to breathe fully.