Stair Step Breath (anuloma and viloma krama) is a core practice in LifeForce Yoga. This version of Stair Step combines breath and imagery to gently energize while focusing the mind. Use stair step breath in bed to help wake you up, in the afternoon as a short break, before meetings, after interactions, at the beginning of a yoga practice or therapy session, the times for practice are endless. Free audio practice after the directions.
Directions for Practice
Note: Do not practice if you have had recent abdominal or chest surgery. Practice only on the inhalation if you are pregnant. The language and imagery here have been adapted for a health care setting.
- In a seated or supine position, inhale through the nostrils, taking little steps of breath, as though you are climbing a mountain (usually 4 to 8).
- If it’s comfortable, retain the breath at the top of the mountain. Imagine that you are looking out at something beautiful. If holding the breath is uncomfortable, breathe naturally through the nostrils.
- Slide down the mountain.
- Practice steps 1–3 two times.
- Next take a smooth ride to the top of the mountain.
- Sustain for four counts. Imagine you can see something that makes your heart smile.
- Then step down the mountain, exhaling puffs of breath through the nostrils.
- Practice steps 4–7 two times.
- Next take little steps up the mountain through the nostrils, as described above, pause for four counts with an image of beauty in your heart’s mind.
- Take little steps down the mountain, as described in #7. Practice this version of stepped breathing in and out two times.
- End by taking little steps up the mountain, sustaining the breath for four, then slowly glide down the mountain. You might wish to chant the mantra “so ham” (I am That) on the exhalation.
Stair Step Breath for Energy Audio Practice:
The recording below is a led practice of Stair Step that is suitable for someone suffering from the effects of depression. Use when struggling with lack of energy during the day or first thing in the morning. During the practice, you will be guided through a four count pause of the breath. Do what feels appropriate for you, taking a breath if you need one, but encouraging yourself to try sustaining the breath. The practice also contains the direction to “see something beautiful,” “see something that makes your heart smile,” etc. You may wish to come up with an image before practicing, or let it be spontaneous. If you do not see imagery, then find a word that supports your practice (calm-strength, or energy), or cultivate a desired feeling in the body (like energy). Enjoy!
Right click to download a copy here.
An example of Stair Step Breath in a clinical setting: http://yogafordepression.com/supporting-psychotherapists-yoga-for-depression-in-a-clinical-setting/
Stair Step is taught in all LifeForce Yoga weekend workshops. The LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training program provides a deeper immersion into practices like Stair Step and offers tools to adapt the practices to you and your clients’ needs. View the list of upcoming training programs here.
4 thoughts on “Stair Step Practice to Energize with Audio”
As with many of the breathing practices, I am not able to use them professionally with my clients, since they are all addicts who at one time or another have snorted a substance. If anyone know of any patterns that don’t involve short, sharp inhales or just breathing through one nostril, I would be very appreciative. It doesn’t take much to trigger cravings for a drug that has been ingested this way.
Hi, Judy — I do not have clients who are addicts, so this is not something I have tested with that population. But it might work. It’s called the “reset breath,” and I got it from a physical therapist. Here are the instructions I give my students: Preferably, lie in constructive rest (sitting in a chair also works). Put both palms flat on the belly. Breathe slowly, putting your awareness into the belly. Notice how the belly rises into your hands. Do this a few times. Once you get a feel for that, inhale deeply through the nose. Hold the breath as long as you can. Exhale through the mouth with a “Haaaa” sound. Repeat, inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, exhaling through the mouth, for 5 minutes. It’s OK to let go of the Haaaa sound after a few breaths. At the end of 5 minutes, just allow the breath to return to normal, not shaping it or forcing it in any way.
Hi Judy- I’m Ann Friedenheim, a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, LifeForce Yoga Practitioner and Mentor. I have come across people who snicker and make comments when I am teaching the stair step breath. This has only occurred in the residential treatment facility where I used to teach morning yoga. When I inquired about this, they did say that it made them think about snorting drugs. Similarly when we used to do a bit of breath retention, people thought this was like holding in a drag from a joint. So what I have done when I have taught in this environment, is to take two minutes to talk to the class about the fact that our bodies hold our memories which can be pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. I explain that there are movements in yoga or some of the breathing that might remind them of things that have happened or experiences in their lives. I do talk about sniffing in very specifically such as in Stair Step Breath and how someone might associate this with snorting their drug of choice. I demonstrate it and explain that this is possible, however they have choices. They can entertain the experience as a new body experience and see what this feels like on its own terms, or if they think this reminds them of something and it is a trigger they should talk about it with their counselors or with me after class or if something really is too uncomfortable they can stop and just breath and relax, etc. I do talk about dealing with memories and triggers is part of recovery and learning to notice this kind of experience is a positive thing but figuring out how to cope with this and develop new coping skills is also important. it is important to remember that we are building new experiences and that they are safe in the facility. I encourage them again to talk with their counselors if they are having discomfort and to take good care of themselves and listen to what they need during class, etc. I invite the to rejoin in whatever we are doing next even if they took a short break during something uncomfortable.
Hi Judy- I am an addictions specialist and a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner and Mentor. I stair step breath and alternate nostril is my clinical practice with addicts. I have never had a reaction like this to those practices in my work with the addictions and learning how to use alternate nostril breathing and mental imagery (inhaling what is healthy and healing through the nostrils and exhaling triggers…for example) could be helpful rebuilding new neural pathways in the brain/new healthy ways to use nostril breathing. That is what the nose is for! Breathing not the use of drugs!