Breath of Joy Will Make You Smile

Breath of Joy
Laughing … my son told me I looked funny doing Breath of Joy!

These past few weeks I have been talking about the challenge of starting and maintaining a home yoga practice. Some things that have really helped me have been figuring out why I really want to practice and also having a plan. Last week I shared a simple yoga sequence that I have been using. I hope you had a chance to look at it and maybe even try it out!

A few days ago Violette wrote to me and mentioned that she had just learned Breath of Joy and thought it would be a nice addition to our yoga sequence.

Great idea! I haven’t done this particular breath practice in a while and was so happy to be reminded of it.

I first learned Breath of Joy when I did my 200-hour yoga teacher training and loved it from the start. It is energizing and uplifting and it really will make you smile. It is a wonderful way to add vitality to your morning yoga practice (or anytime really…!)

If you are following the sequence from last week, you could try Breath of Joy in place of Mountain Breath (number six in the guide).

What is it?

Breath of Joy is a three-part breathing technique that comes from the Kripalu tradition. It involves synchronizing breath and arm movements. It embodies strength and openness and is a practice that makes me feel like I am welcoming abundance.

Some Benefits of Breath of Joy

  • Awakens and energizes your body
  • Oxygenates your blood
  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system
  • Moves chi (prana or energy) throughout your body
  • The forceful exhalation at the end of each round helps to detoxify and release stress
  • Leaves you feeling calm and focused when the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in afterwards
  • Brings about focus and balance (in yoga this is known as a state of sattva)
  • Aids in combatting feelings of depression
  • Encourages deep breathing and full use of lungs (counters shallow breathing)
  • Strengthens arms and shoulders
  • It’s fun!

Precautions

If you have untreated high blood pressure or any head or eye issues (such as headaches or glaucoma) this may not be the practice for you. If you have back issues, you may try with very gentle movements, however please respect any signals from your body and stop right away if you notice any discomfort. Keeping your knees slightly flexed throughout helps to protect your low back.

How to do Breath of Joy

Stand with feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent. You will be doing a 3-part inhalation followed by one long and strong exhalation.

  1. Inhale through your nose to one third of your lung capacity while bringing your arms up in front of you at shoulder level, palms facing up.
  2. Continue inhaling to two thirds of your lung capacity while swinging your arms open to the sides in a T-formation (still at shoulder level).
  3. On the third part of the inhalation (now full lung capacity), swing your arms straight up overhead reaching your fingertips towards the ceiling.
  4. On the exhalation, swing your arms towards the ground and out behind you bending your knees deeply into a squat position. Let out an audible “Ha” sound.

As you are doing this, you can repeat one of the following reminders to yourself:

  • The arm movements: front, side, up and down OR
  • The breath movement: in, in, in, out

To see it in action, have a look at Amy Weintraub’s video:

You can repeat the full Breath of Joy sequence up to nine times. It shouldn’t feel forced or strained. Allow a rhythm to develop. Stay relaxed and open. Once you are done, return to standing (Mountain pose) and take a moment to enjoy the effects – all over warmth, faster heart beat and tingling energy.

I hope you have a chance to give Breath of Joy a try!

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