4 Types of Breathing in Bikram Yoga – Part 1

The four types of breathing in Bikram Yoga are:

  1. Pranayama
  2. Normal
  3. 80/20
  4. Kapalbhati

This is not a post on how to perform these breathing techniques. Following is a list of each pose or asana, stating which breathing technique is recommended by Bikram. This info was sourced from Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class – Teacher’s Dialogue, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st book) and Bikram Yoga (2nd book).

Originally, I wanted this post to be a brief, short listing but as always, there is conflicting information across sources. So, I have done the following:

  1. A Short List – stating the breathing technique/s used in each pose or part thereof.
  2. A Teacher Reference – stating the line of dialogue or sentence in each book which states the breathing technique.

Bikram has a good explanation of the two types of breathing performed during the practice of asanas. Found on page 93 of Bikram Yoga, (2nd book)

For most of the postures I tell you to breathe normally: As you begin to move into each position, inhale as fully as possible, trying to fill the lungs 100 percent, then exhale the breath completely when you achieve the posture. Continue inhaling and exhaling fully while maintaining the posture – this is Normal Breathing, and we’ll use this technique during most of the asanas.

In a few postures, however, I will call for “80/20 Breathing.” (If no technique is specified, use Normal Breathing.) To do this,  you inhale fully – whatever 100 percent is for you – but then, as you maintain the posture, you allow only roughly 20 percent of the air to escape as you exhale. Then, you inhale only that same relatively small percentage of your lung capacity back in to complete the cycle. Only when you come out of the posture do you return to Normal Breathing.

The Short List – Part 1

Half Moon Pose – Right and Left Side
Technique: Ambiguous. 80/20 or Normal Breathing

Half Moon Pose – Backward Bending
Technique: 80/20 Breathing

Hands to Feet Pose
Technique: Normal Breathing

Awkward Pose – 1st Part
Technique: Normal Breathing

Awkward Pose – 2nd Part
Technique: Ambiguous. Normal Breathing or 80/20 Breathing.

Awkward Pose – 3rd Part
Technique: Ambiguous. Normal Breathing or 80/20 Breathing.

Eagle Pose
Technique: Normal Breathing.

Note: When I have stated the technique to be “Ambiguous”, this means there conflicting information across sources. See Teacher Reference, below.

The Teacher Reference – Part 1

Half Moon Pose

In Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) on page 14, Bikram states, “Inhale breathing for the first three parts; exhale breathing for the last part.” Hmm, I’m not exactly sure what he means by this statement! It seems he is referring to 80/20 Breathing as Inhale Breathing and Normal Breathing as Exhale Breathing. But lets move on before we get stuck in technicality shall we?!

Half Moon Pose – Right & Left Side

“Stretch a little bit more, breathing 80-20, and stay there like a statue for ten honest seconds” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 15

“Stay this way, absolutely still and breathing normally, for 10 full seconds.” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 105

“Inhale Breathing, full lungs, hold the breathing” – Half Moon Pose, Teacher’s Dialogue

Interesting that the dialogue states, “hold the breathing”. I wonder, is he referring to 80/20 breathing here?

Half Moon Pose – Backward Bending

“Breathe 80-20 and stay like a statue for ten counts.” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 18

“Now comes the back bending, and in this part we will be using 80/20 Breathing.” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 106

“Take a deep breath, full lungs, drop your head back as far as it goes.” – Half Moon Pose – Backward Bending, Teacher’s Dialogue

Hands to Feet Pose

“Everyone looking spiritual and exhale breathing, hold pose for ten honest counts” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 21

“(In forward bends such as this one, we use Normal Breathing, not 80/20.)” and also “Hold for a 10 count, breathing normally, then let go of the heals and come up gracefully.” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 108 and 109

“Exhale breathing and lock your knees.” – Half Moon Pose – Hands to Feet Pose, Teacher’s Dialogue

Awkward Pose

 Awkward Pose – 1st Part

“Exhale breathing.” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 28

“Now, keeping your heels flat on the floor, exhale completely and sit down as deeply as you can…” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 113

“Exhale breathing.” – Awkward Pose – 1st Part, Teacher’s Dialogue

 Awkward Pose – 2nd Part

“Stop with backs of thighs parallel to floor, force hells even higher, and stay there ten honest counts, 80-20 breathing.” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 30

“Please remember to breathe.” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 115

No mention what to do in the posture, only: “Inhale breathing and come up…” – Awkward Pose – 2nd Part, Teacher’s Dialogue

Awkward Pose – 3rd Part

“Stay there ten counts, 80-20 breathing.” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 32

Breathing is not mentioned so Bikram’s rule applies: (If no technique is specified, use Normal Breathing.) – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 93

“Exhale breathing, suck your stomach in, spine straight.” going into the pose and also “Take a deep breath, knees together, spine straight, slowly come up.” – Awkward Pose – 3rd Part, Teacher’s Dialogue

Eagle Pose

“Renew the downward pull of your arms, try to sink even deeper into the standing knee, concentrate on one point in from of you, and stay like a statue for ten seconds, normal breathing.” – Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (1st Book) Pg 39

“All the time you are breathing and pulling down with the arms and concentrating on your spot in the mirror.” – Bikram Yoga (2nd Book) Pg 119

There is no mention of breathing. – Eagle Pose, Teacher’s Dialogue

Stay Tuned for Part 2

That’s it for Part 1. I’ll have the following asanas up next week in Part 2: Standing Head to Knee Pose, Standing Bow Pulling Pose, Balancing Stick Pose and Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose.

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