Pranayama & Meditation
"Breathing is the only function of the body we can perform voluntarily or involuntarily."
How we breathe has an affect on our physical and emotional health. It effects everything from our cardiovascular system, to our digestive system, how we sleep, and our energy levels. It is also a big part of waste removal. 70 % of the waste products in the body are removed by breath.
Pranayama – meaning extension of the life force or life energy – is a really important part of our yoga practice. Mindful breathing helps bring us fully into the present moment, helps to calm and quiet our mind and improves our concentration during our Asana practice.
Here are a few breathing techniques that can really transform your practice and have a positive affect on your overall health.
The Full Yogic Breath
Benefits: Reduces stress and anxiety. Brings us into the present moment. Improves lung capacity. Gets more oxygen into the body.
Try to sit comfortably with an erect spine.
Breathing through the nose, begin each inhale by gently pushing the abdomen out…continue the inhale by expanding the ribcage in all directions and complete the inhale by filling upper chest, all the way up to the collar bones.
On the exhalation, let go of the breath first from upper chest, then from the rib cage and complete the exhalation by emptying out the abdominal region by gently drawing the belly back towards the spine. Do 10-20 rounds
Try to make the breath nice and smooth and deep
Ujjayi Pranayama ~ Victorious Breath
Benefits: Improves concentration in postures. Creates heat which removes toxins. Calming yet energizing. Increases oxygen flow.
Start by taking a full inhale through the nose. Begin the exhalation by opening the mouth, slowly and steadily push the air out gently constricting the back of the throat until you produce a whispering sound.Then close the mouth and try to maintain the whispering sound, continuing to breathe smoothly and deeply in and out through the nose, whilst feeling the air brush across the back of the throat.
Kapalbhati ~ Shining Skull
Kapalbhati is a highly energizing abdominal breathing exercise. It is considered a Kriya (cleanse) to prepare us for Pranayama and Meditation by clearing the mind of thoughts.
Avoid practicing kapalbhati if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. It is also better to avoid whilst pregnant or during menstruation.
Kapalbhati involves short powerful exhalations followed by passive inhalations.
Sit comfortably with an erect spine.
Generate the exhale by powerfully contracting the low belly, drawing it back towards the spine. The inhale happens naturally as you relax the belly. The inhale should take slightly longer than the exhale.
Repeat 20 to 30 times. Then sit with your eyes closed breathing normally. Do 3 to 5 rounds. Start slowly, each inhale/exhale cycle should take about two seconds. As you become more adept, you can increase the pace of the inhales/exhales and also the amount.
Nadi Shoddhana Pranayama ~ Channel cleansing breathing
There are said to be 72,000 Nadis (channels) carrying Prana throughout the body.
Nadi Shoddana helps to clear the channels, bringing balance to the right and left side of the brain and calming the mind for meditation.
Again, try to sit comfortably with an erect spine.
Using your right hand curl your index and middle fingers into the palm.
Take a full inhale through the nose then close the left nostril with the ring and little finger,
Exhale through the right nostril, slowly and steadily emptying the lungs,
Keeping the left nostril closed inhale slowly and steadily through the right nostril
After a full inhalation close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale completely through the left
Keeping the right nostril closed Inhale fully through the left nostril, then close it using the ring and little finger
Exhaling fully through the right
This completes one round of Nadi Shoddhana. Try this for about five minutes. Then as you feel more comfortable you can increase the duration. Afterwards, sit quietly observing the breath.
Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. In this meditation we observe breath, and the sensation of the breath…as it is.
Try to find a comfortable seated position..use a chair, pillows or any kind of props to help if needed. Close your eyes and breathe normally, in and out through the nose. Bring your awareness to the inner rings of your nostrils and the area above your top lip (called the Philtrum).
Feel the breath as it passes in and out of the nostrils and brushes across the Philtrum, observing all the sensations.
Try this for five minutes. Every time your mind wanders off, just come back to the same area and begin observing the sensations again. With practice and patience, the mind will wander less and even become still…and in that stillness there is peace and calm and equanimity.
Whenever you feel ready, increase the duration.