“By controlling the act of breathing you can efficiently control all the various motions in the body and the different nerve-currents that are running through the body. You can easily and quickly control and develop body, mind and soul through breath-control or the control of Prana”
- Swami Sivananda
The pranayama techniques we will be covering today serve as an introduction to breath work that you can incorporate not only into your meditation and yoga practice, but at any time. These techniques cleanse your lungs while increasing the oxygen flow to your cells and tissues. They also help to increase lung capacity, improve circulation, boost metabolism, tone abdominal muscles, and improve digestion and elimination
1. Ujjayi (Soothing/Cooling Breath)
When performed correctly it creates a cooling effect at the back of the throat and has a stabilizing influence on the cardiorespiratory system. When you find yourself becoming aggravated or upset, shift into Ujjayi breath and you will notice a soothing influence. You can also use this when performing yoga postures and while exercising at a moderate level
-To perform Ujjayi breath, take a slightly deeper than normal inhalation
-On the exhalation, slightly constrict your throat muscles so it sounds faintly of ocean waves or a soft snoring.
-Repeat with the next inhalation. Continue to use the same technique with both the inhalations and exhalations taking the breath in and out through your nose with the mouth closed. There is a slight constriction in the back of the throat.
-Once you have mastered it on the outflow, perform the same procedure on the inhalation
2. Bhastrika (Energizing Breath)
Use when you are feeling a little sluggish and need a quick replenishment of energy
-Exhale all the air from your lungs.
-Begin deep in and out breathing through your nose
-For the first twenty breaths take two-second slow forceful inhalations and two second slow forceful exhalations
-The next twenty breaths are performed faster with approximately one-second inhalations and one second exhalations
-Finally, perform twenty rapid Bhastrika breaths, approximately one-half second inhalations and one- half second exhalations. After the twenty rapid breaths, perform one more slow deep breath and then simply feel the sensations in your body. You will notice that your mind is clear and quiet while your body is energized.
*Do not perform to the point where you are feeling lightheaded or dizzy. The breath movement is almost entirely abdominal, using your diaphragm to move air. Your head and shoulders should be relaxed and mostly still.
3. Nadi Shodhana (Relaxing Breath)
Nadi Shodhana is beneficial when you are experiencing anxiety, stress, and when you are looking to quiet your mind
-Take a slow deep breath, and then close off your right nasal passage with your thumb. Exhale slowly through your left nostril, then inhale slowly through your left nostril, then close off your left nostril with your third and fourth fingers
-Exhale through your right nostril, inhale through your right nostril and then again close your right nasal passage, exhaling through your left
-Continue with this pattern for five to ten minutes alternating the nostril after each inhalation
Viloma pranayama is typically practiced from a reclined position facing skyward. It can have a calming affect on the body and mind, reduce tension, boost lung capacity, and relax the nervous system
-Take a deep breath and fill your lungs completely. Exhale completely.
-Now start with the interrupted inhalation. Inhale for 2-3 seconds, pause, hold the breath for 2-3 seconds. Continue to do this until the lungs are completely full, which may involve 4-5 pauses. Don’t strain yourself - you can start with 2-3 pauses (fill abdomen, diaphragm, then chest then release at same pace)
-Exhale for 2-3 seconds, then pause, hold the breath for 2-3 seconds, pause once again. Repeat this until the lungs feel completely empty.