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Art of the Inhale

At Yoga Matrika, an intimate community-based yoga studio in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, I offer a class three times a week called Body, Breath and Mind.  These are intermediate level yoga classes with a holistic approach to yoga practices including asana, pranayama, energy anatomy,philosophy and ethics and meditation.

This week, one of the pranayama exercises we will practice is Anuloma Krama.  This beautiful breathing practice starts with a complete exhale.  The empty lungs are then filled in two sips of breath with a pause between.  In this sweet ode to the in-breath, we pause to appreciate what it feels like to be full of potential, energy and life.  Then, we realize that we can open just a little bit more.  Then, we pause in this great state of expansion and life before returning to where we began, with a complete exhale.

While these instructions are given here for general use, it is important to note that:

  • Many people should not hold their breath, including women who are pregnant.  Please ask your doctor if you have any questions about whether or not this type of breathing exercise is appropriate for you.
  • If you are not a regular yoga student, the pause between breath might be too long for you.  Start with less than 5-seconds of pause and build your way up to 5-seconds over time.
  • While practicing pranayama, it is important to practice in a comfortable way.  If you experience discomfort on either the in-breath, out-breath or the pause, reduce your effort to a comfortable level.
  • It is best to have a competent pranayama instructor when you are first learning.  Please ask your instructor to work with you on this exercise.


Step 1: find a comfortable seat in a chair or on the floor.  Breathe in and out through your nose if you aren’t congested.  Let your belly fill with breath on the inhale and gently pull your navel towards your spine on the exhale.  Enjoy these deep and rhythmic breaths.

Step 2: Exhale completely

Step 3: Inhale the first 1/2 of your breath by filling from the pit of your throat to your sternum is about 5-seconds.

Step 4: Pause for 5-seconds

Step 5: Inhale the second 1/2 of your breath by filling from your sternum to your pubic bone in about 5-seconds.

Step 6: Pause for 5-seconds.

Step 7: Exhale completely

[Return to step 3 and continue for 5-8 minutes.  Then, breathe in and out naturally for 2-minutes and just notice how you feel.]

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