Learning Circular Breathing

Here are some short exercises which might help you to learn circular breathing. The below explanations might also help you understand what actually happens during circular breathing.

Give yourself twenty minutes and do the following exercises.

  1. Breathe in and out of your nose normally. relax
  2. Fill your mouth with some water and tilt your head back and again breathe in and out of your nose normally. Keep breathing for at least a couple of minutes. relax
  3. Without water, fill your mouth with air at a fair pressure and keep breathing in and out through your nose for a couple of minutes while keeping the air in the mouth. relax
  4. Do the same thing again and this time have your thumb and index finger of one hand just touching your cheeks while breathing in and hovering just above the cheeks when breathing out. Relax
  5. Do the same thing again and this time make the in-breath fast and strong and the out-breath long and constant - still with the fingers and still keeping all the air in while breathing in and out through the nose. Relax
  6. Do the same thing again and this time after taking a few breath, push your cheeks with your fingers to expel the air out of your mouth while breathing in. Bingo. Relax

You just did it. Now you know that you can breath in through your nose while pushing air out of your mouth. You also know that you can isolate the mouth space from the rest of your breathing system. We do so by using the root of the tongue.
If you say kookoo...kookoo..., the sound of 'k' is produced by releasing the tongue from the back opening of the mouth. When you have water in your mouth, you do it automatically.

During circular breathing we use the same tongue movement to temporarily close the back of the mouth while we take a snatch of air through the nose into our belly. You have to learn it first, but then it becomes automatic.

Another helpful exercise is to get yourself a balloon and blow it up. Realise just how much air you can hold under quite a bit of pressure in your cheeks. Most beginners do not use enough pressure when playing didj. Didj playing is so therapeutic because you have to breathe!!!

When circular breathing we first fill up our cheeks with as much air as possible, then we close of the back of the mouth with the root of the tongue, use our cheeks like a pair of bellows to keep pushing air through the lips into the didj and at the same time snatch air through the nose.

As soon as we have a large fast snatch of air into our belly, we use our belly to produce the air-pressure, remove the tongue from the back of the mouth and so on.

Take the snatches of air early, so you can put plenty of air and pressure into your mouth before starting the snatch.

Now you just need practice. It's a matter of learning to synchronise the different components of circular breathing, just like learning to synchronise the clutch and accelerator in a car.

For many more useful exercises, see our
How to Play the Didgeridoo Video.