Breath to Support Stillness in Your Yoga Practice: Balance and Twists

We’ve been looking at how your breath supports your movement in your workouts—see “The Right Breath for Now,” “Breath to Support Movement,” and “Breath to Support Movement in Your Yoga Practice.” While we aren’t always moving our bodies in yoga, we are always moving our breath. It’s in a constant flow. In this sense, all yoga classes are flow yoga classes—there is always movement of the breath, and therefore always movement in the body.

Don't hold a balance pose without breathing!
Don’t hold a balance pose without breathing!

Breath and Balance

When you’re holding a balance pose, it can be quite tempting to hold your breath. When you’re on the verge of finding balance, the breath can feel disruptive. But not breathing isn’t a long-term solution! When you’re in a balance pose:

  • Keep your breath flowing
  • Establish a steady rhythm of breath—counting out a rhythm, in-2-3-4, out-2-3-4 can help
  • Count your breaths, too: take 5 or more in a balance pose, and build this over time
  • Notice if you are tempted to hold your breath

Breath and Seated Twists

In twists, full inhalations will slide you marginally out of the pose, and exhalations will create space for you to deepen. When you’re in a seated twist:

  • Use inhalations to reestablish height up your spine
  • Use exhalations to twist deeper naturally—don’t force

Breath and Reclining Twists

Next time you’re neck deep in a pool or bathtub, notice how your full inhalations buoy you out of the water, while exhalations sink you deeper. The same experience applies when you’re on your back in a twist:

  • Feel the inhalations unwinding you slightly
  • Use the exhalations to settle even deeper to the floor

Next time, we’ll look at how the breath interacts with holding backbends and forward bends.

—Sage

Published by

Sage Rountree

Sage Rountree is author of six books on yoga for athletes, most recently Everyday Yoga.

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