When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, try these deep breathing techniques to help you relax. These yoga activities are also referred to as pranayama. They vary in difficulty and aim to stimulate and govern the body’s Nadi, or energy channels. Changing your breathing pattern can modify the flow of energy, increasing your mood, energy, and focus. Mastering these techniques, like many workouts, takes time and persistence, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to significantly improve your well-being.
What exactly is Pranayama?
Pranayama is an ancient yogi’s profound breathing exercise. Prana signifies ‘life force energy,’ and Yama implies mastery or control. Pranayama, as such, is a breathing practice that tries to control and promote the flow of energy through your body. Simply modifying your breathing pattern can alter the amount, quality, and flow of energy. As a result, your mood, healing, energy levels, and focus may suffer. It is an essential component of traditional yoga practice.
Increasing Your Prana
Simply changing your breathing can modify your prana, or life force energy. This affects you energetically, intellectually, and physically by changing the quality and quantity of air in your lungs. The Ida and Pingala Nadis (energy channels) of the body meet near the nose. As a result, focused breathing through the nose is one of the simplest ways to absorb and change prana. Once you’ve mastered the basic breathing techniques, you can progress to more complex routines. This will aid in the removal of toxins and blockages in the Nadis, allowing free and smooth energy flow across all seven chakras.
How to Perform Pranayama
While breathing may appear to be second nature, pranayama requires time and patience to master. To begin, you must master exhalation with a concentration on calm and smooth breaths, which might be difficult if you aren’t used to deep, conscious breathing. After you’ve mastered exhalation, practice calm, smooth inhale. Retention, or holding your breath for a brief length of time, is the final stage. To open up your body, sit in a calm position with a straight spine, in addition to breathing. To avoid distractions, try to let go of your thoughts and keep your eyes relaxed or closed. Finally, when doing pranayama, you should not exert yourself, so take a pause if you become dizzy, winded, or light-headed. Shavasana is a few minutes of mindful meditation at the end.
When Should You Do Pranayama?
Pranayama is best practiced in the early morning. However, the various deep breathing exercises are best suited to different times of day, and your choice will be determined by how you want to feel. Practicing with the sunrise or in the early morning hours is ideal for revitalizing approaches like Ujjayi Pranayama or Kapalabhati Pranayama to boost energy and attention. Alternatively, soothing breathing techniques such as Bhramari Pranayama or Sama Vritti Pranayama are ideal for evening or nighttime practice. Of course, these breathing methods are equally useful in yoga and meditation and can be applied in whichever way your tradition demands.
The Yogic Breath
When beginning your deep breathing exercises, begin with yogic breath, often known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing. It is a fundamental breathing technique that serves as the foundation for all other forms of pranayama. Differentiating between chest and abdominal breathing is the greatest method to learn. The former allows the lungs to expand horizontally, whereas the latter allows them to grow vertically. Place your hands on your chest or stomach and breathe carefully and slowly, feeling each area filled with air. After you’ve figured out how to breathe into each separately, you’ll combine them to use as much lung capacity as feasible. This pranayam is ideal for beginners, and five to ten minutes of practice each day can significantly improve mental control and focus.
Dirga Pranayama – the three-part or complete breath – is another fundamental deep breathing technique. It expands on yogic breathing techniques to promote lung capacity and breath awareness. Fill the abdomen, ribs, and chest with air when you take a deep, cleansing breath throughout this method. It can be helpful to imagine sending your breath first to your stomach and then inflating it like a balloon. Then visualize the air entering your lungs and flaring your ribcage before spreading into your chest and shoulders, tall and open. Exhale softly and evenly from the chest to the ribs to the diaphragm. This pranayama is an excellent technique to unplug and quiet your mind.
Pranayama Sama Vritti
Sama Vritti Pranayama might help you achieve balance. This fundamental deep breathing exercise, often known as box breathing, keeps things simple by counting inhaling, holding, expelling, and holding in equal parts. It may help to envision a box when doing this. This practice is very soothing, making it great for stress or anxiety (even Navy SEALs use it!). Begin by sitting comfortably and paying attention to your natural breathing. This practice, like the other pranayamas, will use diaphragmatic breathing to promote airflow through the lungs. When you’re ready, exhale for four counts, then inhale for four counts. Hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and then hold for another four seconds at the conclusion of the exhalation. Repeat the pattern five to 10 times. As you have more practice, you can experiment with timings, working your way up to a box of 10 or even fifteen seconds.
Once you’ve mastered Kapalabhati Pranayama, you can advance to Bhastrika Pranayama, commonly known as Bellows Breath. This is a more severe form of deep breathing practice that should be taught by an experienced instructor. It is a warming breath that promotes blood circulation, eliminates pollutants, and enhances the neurological system. Unlike Kapalabhati, which uses vigorous exhales but passive inhales, Bhastrika requires you to actively and powerfully breathe both ways. Your abdomen will pump in and out like a blacksmith’s bellows. It is critical to listen to your body, move slowly, and recognize your boundaries. Begin with a comfortable rhythm and gradually increase to roughly two breaths per second. Begin with one to two rounds of 15 to 20 exhalations, followed by more relaxing pranayama like yogic or Ujjayi to bring the breath back to normal.
Sit Cari Pranayama, also known as Hissing Breath, might help you beat the summer heat. It can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, and deal with stress and sadness. With this deep breathing practice, mouth and tongue positions are critical. To inhale, open your mouth wide and gently, teeth together but not clenched. Gently press the back of your bottom teeth with the tip of your tongue. When you take a deep, long breath in, you should hear a hissing sound as the air draws in between your teeth, tongue, and diaphragm. Then, to exhale, close your mouth completely and exhale via your nose. After a few of these breaths, you should notice a cooling sensation in your mouth. At least five rounds of this pranayama are recommended.
Surya Bhedana Pranayama
Surya Bhedana Pranayama, or right nostril breathing, is the inverse of left nostril breathing. It’s the same approach as before, but this time you’ll use the Vishnu Mudra to block off each nostril as needed. In this scenario, inhale on the right and exhale on the left. Whatever count you breathe in, attempt to exhale for twice as long. The right nostril is the endpoint of the Pingala Nadi, or energy channel, which is more stimulating and connected with the sun and warmth. This practice will boost your vitality, alleviate worry, manage low blood pressure, and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.