2 Yoga Breathing Practices to Soothe Your Heart

Black woman, breathing and with hand on her heart for meditation and wellness being peaceful and practicing gratitude.

Article At A Glance

Yoga practice is a time to reset and replenish. These yoga breathing practices can connect you to your innermost core.

We are like migrating birds,
The sadness of our departure
Is mitigated by
The joy of our reunion

– Author Unknown

I remember the first time my yoga practice felt like a homecoming. It was 1995, and I taught English at a university in Nanjing, China. Living abroad was an unforgettable experience, and, like any great adventure, it also had its challenges.
It was during one of those tougher times when it first dawned on me that yoga would always be there to welcome me just as I was. I recall one day when I was feeling especially lonely and frustrated. Rolling out my mat felt like preparing to enter a warm and familiar home where I could take refuge and find comfort simply in being with myself.

Coming Home to Yoga

Close-up of attractive young woman folding blue yoga or fitness mat after working out at home in living room. Yoga and healthy lifestyle concept.

In the many years since yoga has been my home base and a steadfast companion through life’s ups and downs. Perhaps you’ve also experienced your practice as a faithful ally and a soft place to land no matter what life throws at you.

Aside from being a steady presence in our lives, there’s another way yoga can be a homecoming. It guides us inward, shifting our focus from the external world to our body, breath, and awareness itself. 

Isn’t it true that daily life has a way of scattering our energy and attention outward, leaving us feeling disconnected from ourselves?

Yoga brings us back. By focusing the mind inside, yoga invites us to take a rest in the sanctuary of our own inner being.

The Heart’s Resting Place

Middle age beautiful woman sitting practicing yoga at home smiling with hands on chest with closed eyes and grateful gesture on face. Healthy breathing practices, yoga and overall good health.

Hrdaya, the Sanskrit word for heart, can be translated as a resting place. It’s the place within you—an experience, really—where the layers of distraction and disconnection fall away. You return to your most essential sense of Self, where your whole being finds true rest and replenishment.
In giving your mind a place to settle, your practices forge a pathway back home to the abiding peace and joyful awareness that reside at the ground of your being.

2 Simple Yoga Breathing Practices

Here are two simple breath exercises to help you turn inward and reconnect with yourself at the beginning of your yoga practice. 

Both can be practiced lying down or upright in a comfortable seated position and with eyes closed or open with a soft gaze.

Yoga Breathing Practice #1: Dwelling in the Space Between Breaths

  1. Turn your attention to the natural rhythm of your breathing.
  2. Feel your inhalation, your exhalation, and the space in between the two. 
  3. Become aware of pauses at the top of your inhalation and the bottom of your exhalation, where the breath pauses before moving in the other direction.
  4. Feel the end of the in-breath inside. 
  5. Feel the end of the out-breath outside.
  6. The end of the in-breath inside. 
  7. The end of the out-breath outside.
  8. The end of the in-breath inside. 
  9. The end of the out-breath outside.
  10. Continue to focus your attention on these spaces between breaths for 2 to 3 minutes. See if you can capture the timeless quality and stillness contained within them.
  11. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and note the effects of this exercise.

Peaceful and calm senior woman in Lotus Pose meditation and her breathing practices with closed eyes at home.

Yoga Breathing Practice #2: Gentle Belly Breathing

  1. Place your hands lightly on your lower belly, between your navel and pubic bone.
  2. Bring your attention to your breathing. 
  3. If possible, breathe in and out through your nose. 
  4. Without doing anything to change it, notice the natural rhythm of your breathing. Notice how your breathing rhythm might naturally slow down or even out as you observe the breath.
  5. Feel the breath in your belly. Notice how the belly gently rises on the inhalation and falls on the exhalation.
  6. Without forcing or pushing the breath, simply allow the breath to release in your lower belly. 
  7. For 2 to 3 minutes, allow your awareness to rest on your breathing and enjoy the gentle rise and fall of your breath in the belly. 
Barrie Risman writer, yoga teacher

Barrie Risman is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, teacher trainer, and author of Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice. Download the first chapter of her book and learn more about her new livestream workshop series, Yoga for Turbulent Times: Building Strength, Resilience, and Compassion for a Changing World, at www.barrierisman.com.

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