Do you want to breathe life into your yoga poses? Focus on coordinating your movements with your breath. Here are three simple guidelines for pairing breath with types of poses.
When bending forward, exhale. When you exhale, your lungs empty, making the torso more compact, so there’s more room to bring your upper and lower body together. The heart rate also slows on the exhalation, making it less activating than an inhalation and inducing a relaxation response—appealing in forward bends, which are typically quieting postures.
When lifting or opening the chest, inhale. In a heart-opening backbend, for instance, you increase the space in your chest cavity, giving the lungs, rib cage, and diaphragm more room to fill with air. And heart rate speeds up on an inhalation, increasing alertness and pumping more blood to muscles.
When twisting, exhale. In twists, the inhalation accompanies the preparation phase of the pose (lengthening the spine, etc.), and the exhalation is paired with the twisting action. Posturally, that’s because as your lungs empty there’s more physical space available for your rib cage to rotate further.