Breath-work has been revered for centuries as a tool for wellbeing. Modern science now proves its powerful effects on our minds and bodies. This series highlights special breathing techniques that invigorate, relax and restore.
What is lion’s breath?
Known as simhasana in Sanskrit, lion’s breath is a powerful breathing technique renowned for its stimulating, clearing and energising quality. It consists of forceful exhalations through the mouth, with the tongue extended out and the eyes rolled upwards. With its strong, expressive element and audible exhales, it’s said to evoke the power of the lion.
Lion’s breath is a wonderful way to release tension in the body and mind while energising the throat. Activating the lungs and stimulating the vocal cords and diaphragm, it’s a favourite technique with singers and vocal artists. Yet it’s useful for all of us to practice as a way of releasing pent-up emotions and helping us to express ourselves. Lion’s breath is a great technique for calming the mind and dispelling stress, anxiety and anger. Its forceful exhales naturally invite a feeling of release while also re-energising. And with its bold, invigorating quality, it’s a fantastic practice for building confidence in expressing yourself and using your voice.
How to practice
1. Lion’s breath can be practiced while in many poses. The simplest is to sit kneeling on the floor, with your sit-bones resting on your heels and your hands on your knees.
2. Take a few slow, deep breaths in and out through the nose.
3. When you’re ready, roll your gaze upwards towards the space between the eyebrows.
4. Inhale fully through your nose.
5. Open your mouth wide and extend your tongue out as far as you can, stretching it towards your chin.
6. Lean forwards slightly, pressing your hands against your knees, and exhale forcefully as you quickly and strongly contract the abdominal muscles while making a breathy ‘ha’ sound, letting the air pass across your tongue.
7. Relax and close your mouth, taking a few normal breaths.
8. Repeat lion’s breath, taking between 3-7 cycles in total. Play with allowing the technique to come alive, feeling the natural movement of your body and the expressive possibilities of the breath. You can also focus on releasing anything you no longer need with the strong exhales.
9. To finish, take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose, then let your breath return to its normal rhythm.