A woman in a white and gray tank top doing alternate nostril breathing as part of her morning yoga routine.

Want to start the day right? Then you should practice morning pranayama. In this article, you will learn about the benefits of having a morning pranayama practice and some breathing exercises that will help you seize the day.

The Importance of a Pranayama Practice

Pranayama is an ancient practice in India. It is one of the eight limbs of yoga. But you can practice pranayama without practicing the physical limb of yoga called asanas or postures. 

Many of us don’t think so much about the breath because it happens involuntarily. And because of that, we do not breathe properly

The goal of pranayama is to improve your mind and body awareness. But it gives you more than that.

Research shows that breathing exercises have physiological and psychological benefits, such as strengthening the cardiorespiratory function, reducing cortisol (stress hormones), and improving concentration

It is crucial to have pranayama practice because the breath brings oxygen to the body. When you don’t breathe properly, your body will not get enough oxygen. Without enough oxygen, you will most likely suffer fatigue and stress which is the main culprit in many modern illnesses. 

A pranayama practice can help you use the most efficient muscle for breathing which is the diaphragm

Why Practice Pranayama in the Morning?

While there are night owls, the body still follows the circadian rhythm. It’s great to have a pranayama practice in the morning to follow your internal body clock. It’s also great to practice your breathing exercises in the morning for the following reasons:

It Sets the Tone of the Day

How you spend your morning sets the tone of the day. If you spend it feeling relaxed and focused, you will be relaxed and focused the whole day.

A woman feeling relaxed and focused while doing Bhramari pranayama on her yoga mat placed on a grassy lawn, with foliage in the surrounding area.

Fewer Distractions

There are fewer distractions in the morning. You are more in control of your time and life. This time of the day is when you can do things for yourself such as yoga and pranayama. 

You’re Less Likely to Forget It

In the morning, it’s still quiet, and you have fewer distractions. Because of this, you are less likely to forget your pranayama practice.

Pranayamas You Can Practice in the Morning

Here are some breathing exercises you can add to your morning routine.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

A man in a black long-sleeve shirt and pants, practicing Nadi Shodhana pranayama while sitting on his blue yoga mat.

Nadi Shodhana pranayama or alternate nostril breathing is an excellent breathing exercise to practice in the morning since it requires an empty stomach. This pranayama is a cleansing breath. It cleanses the nadis or the body’s energy channels or the left and right brain hemispheres so you can balance them out. 

Here’s how to practice alternate nostril breathing:

  1. Start in your most comfortable seated position. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Rest your hands on your lap.
  2. Bring the pointer and middle fingers of your right hand together. Press these fingers on the space between your eyebrows. 
  3. Press your right thumb to your right nostril and take a deep inhale.
  4. Release the right nostril while covering the left nostril with your ring finger. Then, exhale through the right nostril. 
  5. Release the left nostril and cover your right nostril with your thumb. Take another inhale. 
  6. Then, release the right nostril and press your ring finger on your left nostril to cover it. Exhale through your right nostril. 
  7. Repeat for four more cycles or five to ten minutes.

Here is a video tutorial on how to do alternate nostril breathing.

Source: Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur

Ocean Breath

Ocean breath or more commonly known as the Ujjayi breath is an energizing breathing technique. It warms up your body and prepares it for movement. In the morning upon waking, your muscles are stiff and tight from a night’s rest. 

Practicing the Ujjayi pranayama will loosen your joints and muscles and prepare the body to seize the day. 

Here’s how to do the Ujjayi pranayama:

  1. Come to your most comfortable seated position. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders away from your ears.
  2. Close your mouth. Now, bring your attention to the back of your throat and slightly constrict it.
  3. Now, inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Keep your inhale and exhale equally long. 
  4. Do this for five to ten minutes in the morning.

Here is a video tutorial on how to do the Ujjayi breath.

Source: Yoga With Adriene

Skull Shining

Skull Shining or Kapalabhati pranayama is another breathing exercise you can do in the morning. If you usually have brain fog in the morning or any time of the day, this pranayama can help you. As the name suggests, it makes your skull shine. It will help you have more clarity throughout the day.

Here’s how to do the Kapalbhati pranayama:

  1. Come to your most comfortable seated position. Place your hands over your knees or your lap. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and close your eyes.
  2. Begin by taking a few rounds of deep belly breathing, filling your belly with as much air as you can as you inhale, and bringing all the air out through your nostrils as you exhale. Relax for a while.
  3. Now, take an inhale again.
  4. Then, pull the navel in toward your spine as you take a forceful and rapid exhale through your nostril. Do 20 rapid exhales. 
  5. Relax for a while.
  6. Repeat the same process for two more rounds. 

Here is a video tutorial on how to do the Kapalbhati pranayama.

Source: Natasha Noel

Sama Vritti Pranayama

Sama Vritti pranayama or box breathing is great breathwork to practice in the morning. It helps in clearing your mind, allowing you to focus. It’s also excellent for relaxation. You can practice box breathing seated on the mat and a chair. You can also do it while laying down on the mat or your bed.

Here’s how to do the Sama Vritti pranayama:

  1. Lie down or sit in your most comfortable seated position. Close your eyes.
  2. Bring one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Then, begin to notice the natural flow of your breath.
  3. Now, inhale through your nostrils for four seconds and allow your stomach to rise. 
  4. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  5. Then, exhale for four seconds and allow your belly to fall. 
  6. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  7. Repeat for five to ten rounds or five to ten minutes.

It is helpful to imagine you are filling a box with air. 

Here is a video tutorial on how to do box breathing.

Source: Sunnybrook Hospital

Bee Breath

Do you get agitated or anxious in the morning? If so, this breathing exercise should be part of your morning pranayama practice.

The Bhramari pranayama or bee breathing is a calming breathing technique. This pranayama produces a humming sound similar to the sound of a Indian black bee. Thus, the name. The vibration it causes soothes the nerves, especially the nerves around the head.

Here’s how to do the bee breath or Bhramari pranayama:

  1. Sit up straight and keep your mouth and eyes closed. Allow your face and shoulders to relax.
  2. Bring your index fingers to the tragus of your ears or that cartilage between your ears and cheeks. 
  3. Take an inhale through your nostrils.
  4. As you exhale, gently press the tragus with your index fingers to cover the ears and make a humming or a buzzing sound.
  5. Do this for five to ten minutes in the morning. 

Here is a video tutorial on how to do Bhramari pranayama.

A morning routine influences the rest of your day. If you start your day with a pranayama that gives you clarity, cleansing, and relaxation, your whole day will be much less stressful and toxic.