Yogic breathing, known as pranayama, can benefit your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Regulating your breathing with these practices is said to extend your breath, or vital life force.

You can use breathing techniques to help you sleep better, enhance lung capacity, and increase mindfulness.

Common pranayama exercises, which you may have learned in a yoga class, include alternate nostril, cooling, and ujjayi breathing techniques.

Lion’s breath, or simhasana in Sanskrit, is another breathing practice. You can do it on its own or as part of a longer practice. Sticking out your tongue and roaring like a lion might be exactly what you need to relax or express yourself.

Read on to learn more about how to do lion’s breath, its benefits, and how you may be able to use breathing practices to manage certain conditions.

Lion’s breath is a type of pranayama that’s said to alleviate stress, eliminate toxins, and stimulate your throat and upper chest. In yoga, it’s also known as Lion Pose.

The fifth chakra

This breathing practice is related to the thyroid and the fifth chakra or energy center. Your fifth chakra is the seat of creativity, communication, and expression.

Throat and face relaxation

You can do lion’s breath to help clear your throat if you have a dry mouth or throat tickle. It also promotes relaxation in your facial and neck muscles. This is useful when you’ve used those muscles for speaking or while concentrating.

Vocal cords and diaphragm

And, of course, it engages your lungs with particular focus.

Lion’s breath stimulates your vocal cords and diaphragm. This has made it a favorite breathing exercise for singers and people with speech impairments, such as stuttering.

Inhibition and self-consciousness

And since it takes putting self-consciousness aside for the moment, lion’s breath may help you in other parts of life, like when you want to speak up in certain situations but find yourself shying away.

You may also find that lion’s breath helps you release emotions, thoughts, or patterns.

Breath techniques are available anywhere

The beauty of breathing techniques is that, for the most part, you can do them anytime and anywhere. While you may draw attention to yourself if you do lion’s breath in public, you can find time to do it in a private place.

You can have fun enjoying the playful nature of lion’s breath. This aspect, as well as its ability to calm you down, makes it appealing to children as well.

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You can do lion’s breath at the beginning or end of an asana (pose) or meditation practice. Or you can do it on its own throughout the day.

Find a position to sit in

You can perform lion’s breath while sitting in a chair or on all fours in tabletop position. But you can also use a variety of other seated positions to practice lion’s breath.

These include:

Choose where to rest your gaze

You can use a drishti, or focused gaze, to fixate on your third eye. That’s the space between your eyebrows. Another option is to concentrate on the tip of your nose. Or you can open your eyes wide and gaze up toward the ceiling or sky.

Here’s how to do lion’s breath:

  1. Find a comfortable seated position.
  2. Lean forward slightly, bracing your hands on your knees or the floor.
  3. Spread your fingers as wide as possible.
  4. Inhale through your nose.
  5. Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and stretch it down toward your chin.
  6. Exhale forcefully, carrying the breath across the root of your tongue.
  7. While exhaling, make a “ha” sound that comes from deep within your abdomen.
  8. Breathe normally for a few moments.
  9. Repeat lion’s breath up to 7 times.
  10. Finish by breathing deeply for 1 to 3 minutes.

To deepen your practice

Set an intention to let go of anything you no longer wish to hold onto.

With each exhale, imagine that you’re releasing whatever it is that no longer serves you. Notice if you have any resistance to this or are holding onto anything tightly. If this is the case, simply acknowledge it and trust that you can let go when you’re ready.

From here, think about what you’d like to call into your life, such as joy, laughter, good health, or a sense of calm.

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Creating a regular pranayama practice can bring amazing benefits that yogis have recognized for thousands of years. Much of the evidence for this is anecdotal, passed down from teachers and ancient texts.

But scientific evidence that backs many of these benefits is mounting. While many of these studies don’t specifically investigate lion’s breath, it’s safe to say that engaging in breathing exercises can be greatly beneficial.

They may even help you manage certain conditions.

Lion’s breath for COPD

Researchers in a small 2017 study examined the effects of engaging in breathing practices, along with education, for 12 weeks. This had a positive effect on the exercise tolerance of people with symptomatic, moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The pranayama plus education group showed greater improvements than the group who received only education. Practicing pranayama had a positive effect on how far people could walk in 6 minutes. They also made progress in inhalation capacity and air trapping.

Larger, more in-depth studies are required to expand on these findings.

Lion’s breath for asthma

Learning to control your breath can also benefit people with asthma.

Research from 2017 found that breathing exercises may be a useful tool in managing childhood asthma. These breathing techniques benefitted children with mild and moderate chronic asthma and uncontrolled asthma. They did not improve acute severe asthma, though.

Breathing practices were shown to reduce hyperventilation. This helps to normalize carbon dioxide levels, while decreasing the bronchospasm that causes breathlessness. Pranayama was also shown to reduce anxiety, improve respiratory endurance, and boost immunity.

Further research that takes into consideration factors such as quality of life, medication use, and patient-reported outcomes is needed.

Lion’s breath for Apert and Asperger’s syndrome

A 2016 study on a 7-year-old boy with Apert and Asperger’s syndrome examined the effects of twice-weekly multisensory yoga sessions over 4 weeks.

The practice was shown to reduce disruptive behaviors. It also had a positive impact on expressive emotions, social engagement, and physical performance. Plus, lion’s breath had a positive effect on the child’s ability to self-regulate stress.

Lion’s breath for improving other conditions and concerns

Pranayama is also shown to help some people:

  • alleviate stress and anxiety
  • improve sleep quality
  • enhance mindfulness
  • lower blood pressure
  • boost lung capacity
  • increase cognitive function
  • lessen cigarette cravings

Lion’s breath can be a useful, inspiring, and enjoyable breathing exercise to add to your yoga practice. In addition to its therapeutic benefits, it may help you loosen up, let go, and have a bit of fun.

Pay careful attention to the effects of pranayama, especially if you’re a beginner. Stop if you experience sensations such as nausea, anxiety, or shortness of breath.

Seek out the advice of a qualified yoga instructor if you’d like additional guidance in learning lion’s breath. They can help you add this breathing technique to an existing routine or guide you in designing one that’s right for you.

Emily Cronkleton is a certified yoga teacher and has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Thailand. Her passion for yoga has laid the foundation for a healthy and inspired life. Her teachers and practice have helped shape her life experience in many ways. You can follow her on Instagram.