Pranayama- The Breath of Life

Original Date: Jun 10, 2016

Pranayama Techniques

Breath is an essential component of the yoga practice. The focus on the breath distinguishes yoga from other forms of physical practice. The breath becomes the bridge between the physical layers of being, and the more subtle and spiritual layers of being. Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is said that awareness of the breath opens the doors to the deeper components of the practice: concentration, mediation, and bliss.

”Prana – Ayama”
Prana= life force manifested through the breath
Ayama= to stretch or extend
Pranayama= to maneuver or direct the life force

You can begin a Pranayama practice at any time to experience the deep benefits. We are always breathing, so even if you are not well or unable to move in a full physical practice, Pranayama offers your the ability to practice no matter the physical or environmental circumstances. You can adapt the practice to meet your individual needs. If you need more energy, or if you need some calming effect.
Take a tall comfortable seat, either supported on the floor, or in a firm chair. Sit with your spine straight, a well supported base, your chin slightly tucked. Notice the full flow of breath. First, simply observe the breath. Noticing builds your relationship with the breath. This basic observation of the breath and sensations of breathing might be your full pranayama practice.  If at any point during any of these practices you feel light headed, dizzy, or uncomfortable, release the technique and return to your normal breath. Always contact your doctor or health care provider if you have any concerns.

Ujjai Breath- Victorious Breath- Ocean Wave Breath
Gently constrict the muscles at the back of the throat by pretending to fog a mirror, or saying “haa” with the exhale. Close mouth and continue this breath. Benefits: calming effect, regulates breath.

Kapalabhati- skull shining- sometimes “breath of fire”
Practice this technique by beginning a panting breath, like a dog pants. Open the mouth and pant. Notice the way the belly/diaphram pulses in and out. Close the mouth and continue this breath through the nose. It should be a rhythmic breath, light like sniffing. Inhale should be effortless, its the exhale you are forcing out. Repeat 20-30 breaths. Stop and take a few normal breaths. Repeat another 25-30. Continue with this pattern 2 or 3 times. Release if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable. Benefits: energizing, stimulating, and heating breath.

Nadi Shodhana- Alternate Nostril Breath
Using the hands, peace fingers bend to palm, thumb and ring open (or any comfortable position) to close one nostril at a time. Full breath in and out. Close right nostril, inhale left. Close Left, exhale right. Inhale right. Close right, exhale left. Inhale Left. Close left, exhale right. Continue with this pattern for any length of time, 2-12 minutes or more. Optional: Can use breath count: 4 breath in, 8 hold, exhale 8, repeat, or any other combination. Benefits: calming effect, cleanses right and left channels, purifies.

Samvritti- Same pause, same fluctuation
Take a full breath in and out. Exhale out a little more. Inhale to count of 3. Hold the breath to the count of 3. Exhale to the count of 3. Take a normal breath. Repeat same count of 3.  After 2 or 3 rounds, increase the pause to the count of 4. Take a normal breath. Repeat. Increase to count of 5. Close with a few normal breaths.Benefits: calming effect, regulates the breath.

Sitali- Cooling breath
Take a few normal breaths. Exhale the breath, and exhale a little more. Then, curl the tongue or open the mouth and stick the tongue out. Lightly “sip” the breath in, feeling the cool sensation of the breath over the tongue. Exhale through the nose. Repeat this pattern, inhale through open mouth, and or curled tongue, exhale through the nose. Benefits: calms and cools the body.

So Hum- Breath Meditation “I am That” or “I am Connected”
Sitting comfortably, notice your breath. Observe its pattern, observe the sensation of the breath. Where does if flow freely? Where might it feel blocked? It’s ok if you can’t feel completely. Just observe. Begin the meditation. Think and hear in your mind “SO” on the inhalation. Think and hear “Hum” on exhale. Repeat this for 5 or more minutes. Benefits: calming to the mind, centering.

What types of breathing practices have you tried? Where do you feel the breath in your body? What sensations arise? Do you notice any changes from regular Pranayama practice? Notice your relationship with your breath.  Let me know how you respond to the breath.