November’s Theme: Stress Management with This Week’s Focus on Yogic or Pranayama Breathing

As mentioned in last week’s Movement Wednesday post, November’s Theme: Stress Management for the dancer, I will focus today on yogic breathing, or Pranayama. First and foremost, it is important to mention that the stress management techniques discussed in detail this month may not appeal to all individual’s needs and personalities.  Instead, the intention is to serve as an educational tool/reference, reminder and/or motivator.

“Learn how to exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.” ~Carla Melucci Ardito

We all breathe.  We breathe because it serves as a necessary function for life.  However, we sparingly think about how we breathe until those moments when we need to keep dancing as if we aren’t tired, but feel as if we are completely out of breath.  The purpose of Pranayama, is to increase the vital capacity of the lungs to increase oxygenation capacity of the blood leaving the lungs.  With increased oxygen carried by the hemoglobin in the blood, the greater the body is able to release further energy.  Yogic or Pranayama breathing can help to achieve greater energy restoration, increase vital capacity of the lungs (the maximum amount of air a person is able to exhale from the lungs after a maximum inhalation), and promote injury prevention.

Yogic or Pranayama breathing consists of three stages:

  • Puraka (inhalation)
  • Kumbhaka (pausing or holding the breath)
  • Rechaka (exhalation)
The ratio of these three stages should be 1:4:2 (Ex: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold the air for 16 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds).

Exercise: Basic Breathing

Step 1:  Sit down in a relaxed position (Ideally, squatting with legs crossed).  Place a watch or timer in front of you if you choose.

Step 2: Inhale deeply and slowly, filling the lungs completely from the lower section to the middle and finally to the upper section.  Record the maximum inhalation time (range should be between 2 – 16 seconds).  With practice this time can be increased.

Step 3:  Hold the breath for a duration of 4x the amount it took you to complete your maximum inhalation from step 2.

Step 4:  Exhale the air slowly in the 2x the time that it took you in step 2.

Step 5: Repeat steps 2-4 five times in the first week of doing so.  Then gradually increase the number of times over a period of a few months.

Stay tuned for next week’s Movement Wednesday post on Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Also, click here if you have not checked out last Sunday’s Q&A session with Royal Danish Ballet dancer, Shelby Elsbree.

Thanks to all my readers and subscribers for all of your support so far.  If interested, you may subscribe to dancehealthier at the right hand side of the homepage.  You will only be e-mailed when new posts are published.  Feel free to make a comment or contact me via e-mail at


4 thoughts on “November’s Theme: Stress Management with This Week’s Focus on Yogic or Pranayama Breathing

  1. This sounds like a useful and calming technique…great for long days of rehearsals or even before/during or after performances… I look forward to giving it a try over Nutcracker season! Thank you!

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