Portsmouth Center for Yoga and the Arts GENTLE YOGA

"Prana" means the life force and "yama" means to control or master. One of the major ways that we receive prana is through the air and thus through breathing. Pranayama is the yogic system of breathing that trains one to be able to control the flow of prana in their body through the practice of breathing techniques.

The Complete Breath

This Yogic Breath is also know as the "Three-Part Breath" and is done with long, slow, deep breaths while focusing on the three chambers of the lungs.The First Chamber is the abdominal region which is the bottom chamber. You can tell if you are breathing into this chamber when you're belly inflates like a balloon on the inhalation and contracts on the exhalation. This is also referred to as "diaphragmatic breathing" since the diaphragm is what allows the belly to expand and contact as the breath flows in and out. The Second Chamber is the thoracic region of the ribs and middle chest. When you breathe into this chamber, your rib cage and the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) expand and contract like an accordion. The Third Chamber is known as the clavicular region (named after the clavicle bones or collar bones) and is located in the area of the upper chest and shoulders. This breath fills the upper region of the lungs. If you were to place your fingers on the soft tissue directly above your collar bones, you would be able to feel your breath pressing up into that area. Breathing into the three chambers allows for the fullest and most complete breathing possible thereby opening ourselves to the fullest experience of prana in our body.


  • Relaxes the body and calms the mind.
  • Revitalizes the entire system.
  • Brings oxygen to the farthest reaches of the lungs that don't usually receive a fresh supply of oxygen and prana due to habitual shallow breathing.
  • Breaks down the old habit of shallow breathing and re-establishes a new pattern of deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Gives the abdominal organs a gentle massage with the rising and falling abdominal muscles.
  • Improves digestion and elimination. Helps to relieve constipation.
  • Strengthens the abdominal muscles, diaphragm, heart, and lungs.
  • Very soothing during menstruation, especially when there is discomfort.
  • Can be practiced during postures, relaxation, meditation, and throughout the day at any time and anywhere.



  • No real contra-indications unless recent surgery to the abdomen or torso.
  • Do not hold the breath during this exercise especially if you have high blood pressure.
  • All pranayama is best done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or one or two hours after a meal.

Ujjayi Breath

This breath, also known as "Ocean Breath," is performed by taking long, slow, and deep breaths while slightly contracting the back of the throat in the area of the glottis. The subtle muscular contraction creates a hissing sound in the back of the throat that sounds like the rising and falling of the ocean tide.


  1. Sit comfortably with your spine erect and your chest lifted or lie down on your back.
  2. Begin taking long, slow breaths through the nostrils.
  3. Allow the breath to be gentle and relaxed as you slightly contract the back of your throat creating a steady hissing sound as you breathe in and out. The sound need not be forced but should be loud enough so that if someone came close to you they would hear it.
  4. Lengthen the inhalation and exhalation as much as possible without tension anywhere in the body and allow the sound to be continuous and smooth.
  1. Incorporates and enhances all the benefits of the complete breath.
  2. Relaxes the body and calms the mind.
  3. Provides a deep meditative focus as the mind becomes absorbed in the sound of the breath.
  4. Stimulates circulation, metabolism and the suction of venous blood.
  5. Opens the alveoli in the lungs, allowing more complete absorption of oxygen.


Also known as "Shining Skull Breath." "Kapala" means skull and "Bhati" means to make shiny or to clean. Through the rapid succession of sharp expulsions of the breath, the nasal passages are cleaned and purified.
The name Shining Skull comes from the physiological process whereby the cerebral spinal fluid, which changes pressure according to the rhythms of normal respiration, receives a tremendous shift if pressure through the swift and forceful exhalations. This creates a massaging effect on the brain, enlivening every cell and creating an "aura" of light and vitality around the skull.


  1. Sit comfortably with your spine erect.
  2. Take a few deep breaths and relax.
  3. Inhale and allow your belly to expand.
  4. Exhale forcefully through the nostrils by contracting the abdominal muscles and then passively allow the inhalation to happen. Repeat this several times slowly.
  5. Gradually pick up the pace to find your own rhythm.
  6. After each round, exhale completely, holding the breath out briefly. Inhale when needed, holding the breath in briefly. Exhale when ready and repeat or return to normal respiration.
  1. Clears out the stale, residual air in the lungs and saturates the cells with oxygen and prana.
  2. Releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxins, thereby purifying the body.
  3. Energizes, revitalizes and recharges the entire system with prana and stimulates cellular metabolism. (great for a pick me up instead of coffee)
  4. Brings mental clarity and alertness.
  5. Gives a deep, stimulating massage to the abdominal organs.
  6. Strengthens the diaphragm, the heart and the entire nervous system.
  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy
  • Recent surgery, injury or inflammation of the abdominal or thoracic region (colitis, cancer, hernia, active stomach ulcer, emphysema or heart conditions)
  • High Blood Pressure