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Drishti Journal:

Tales From The Mat & Beyond

Written by Carri Uranga

July 31, 2013

Power of the Breath

Yogis aren’t the only ones to use the power of the breath during the course of physical movement.
Check out how you can use the power of the breath while running, cycling or other athletic endeavors.
Carri was honored to have this post originally featured on the popular running site ChatterRunGirl.

Power of the Breath

As a yoga instructor, I am often talking about the power of the breath and encouraging students to ride the wave of their breath all the way through their practice.
As a runner and cyclist, I also use the power of my breath to carry me through a long run or to ride up grueling hills — just when I think I can’t go any further or maybe have to walk, I come back to the breath. Time and time again, the breath proves to be the driving force behind a successful session, whether it’s on the mat, up a hill, in the waves or on the trail. If you use your breath to calm your body, in turn you can calm the mind.

In yoga, we practice Pranayama – the art and science of yogic breathing techniques. In sports and athletics, we often talk about the power of the mind and getting into the zone. I like to think of the breath as a metronome. Just as in the vinyasa practice, we connect our movements with breath.
Since respiration is dependent on the constant flow of oxygen being delivered to our cells and carbon dioxide being carried away, it only makes sense that the more efficiently we breathe, more oxygen can be delivered to those working muscles and more oxygen equals better performance! In addition to many other benefits, practicing yoga and pranayama breathing techniques can improve your lung capacity and improve your other athletic endeavors.

I notice when I’m not quite feeling into the run or just can’t get in a groove, chances are, my breathing is all off. I engage in this specific breath cycle and before I know it I’m in that zone! It is four quick sharp breaths four times followed by four long slow breaths. It goes a little something like this:

in, in, out, out
in, in, out, out
in, in, out, out
in, in, out, out

iiiiinnnnn, ooouuuttt
iiiiinnnnn, ooouuuttt
iiiiinnnnn, ooouuuttt
iiiiinnnnn, ooouuuttt

Try it out! If it doesn’t work for you find some other breath pattern you can use as a go to. Anytime your mind starts to wander, come back to your pattern.
When it comes to biking. I don’t have a special breathing technique like I use for running, but I do focus on the breath a lot especially when going up hills since I’m not that strong of a rider. If I focus on my breath, I notice I don’t have much time or space to think about anything else that may be sabotaging my performance.

Here are some other quick breathing techniques that may work for you:


  • If you’re cold, warm up with Ujjayi breath – in and out through the nose only.
  • Conversely, if you’re overheated and need to cool off, breathe in through the nose and out through a rolled tongue (if your genetics allows),
    otherwise simply breathe out of the mouth.
  • If you’re like me and experience tension in the jaw and neck try “horse” breath – in through the nose and out through fluttering lips.
    It will sound like a horse and you may feel silly, but I promise it will help relieve tightness!

When you see Carri at your upcoming teacher training be sure to have her show you her running breath.
If you’re lucky, she may even share her “special” mantra.

Post some of your breathing tricks or techniques below!

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  1. Lisa H.

    Excellent article – I’m training to become a diver – can yoga breathing help me hold my breath longer?

  2. Carri Uranga

    Indeed Lisa! You must be free diving? Not only can Pranayama (breath control) physically expand your lungs, but you will also strengthen the capacity of the lungs and balance the nervous system while you’re at it, which of course will help calm your mind while you’re down there…Be safe!


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