When the breathe wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath. -Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Anytime we change our breathing patterns, we change our mental state,our physical experience, and the amount of power that is available for our daily activities. Pran, or prana means life force energy, the invisible, intelligent current that flows in and around us at all times. Yama means to control or restrain, ayama means to expand. So essentially when we practice pranayama, we are both controlling and expanding our energy.
Through the practice of pranayama, we can decrease tension and anxiety, release emotional and mental stress, recharge physically, and relax deeply.
3 Breath Practices to feel better right now!
Before you begin:
Practice in a quiet, well ventilated space if possible.
Make sure the clothing around your abdomen is loose, and your stomach relatively empty.
Find a comfortable sitting position, on the floor or in a chair where the spine can be straight, and the body at ease.
Find length in your spine and neck to create space throughout the body.
1.) Dirga Pranayama (three part breath) for centering and grounding
Sit upright or lie down on your back, and put one hand on your abdomen just below the naval, and one hand on your chest. Feel yourself being supported by the earth beneath you, or by your chair, and feet on the ground if you are seated. Think of a glass that you fill with water, with the bottom of the glass being your lower belly and the top of the glass is your chest. When you fill the glass with water, it fills from bottom to top, and empties out from top to bottom. The same visualization applies when you inhale, fill up the abdomen, then ribs, then heart space. When you exhale, empty out from top to bottom, with your belly relaxing back down at the end of the out breath. Visualize tension and stress leaving your body with every exhalation.
2.) Extended Exhale for anxiety and stress relief
Practicing Dirga pranayama or three part breath (above), find a comfortable count for your inhale, maybe its 4 or 5, or whatever number feels right for you without straining or exaggerating the breath. Then try to comfortably extend your exhale to twice the number of your inhale. For example, if your inhale is four counts, try to make your exhale eight counts. The exhalation does not have to be exactly double. Just send the breath out more slowly than it entered. Check in with your body and notice if your are unconsciously holding any muscles in tension, and relax them with your breath.
3.) Kapalabhati, Skull Shining Breath, for renewed energy and focus
The Sanskrit word kapal means “cranium” or ‘forehead’ and bhati means ‘light’ or ‘splendor’ and also ‘perception’, or ‘knowledge’. Hence kapalbhati is the practice that brings a state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. If the afternoon slump is bringing you down, or you missed your morning coffee and need a boost, this practice will do the trick. Use it before beginning your asana practice for awakening your inner focus and concentration.
Sitting with a long spine and open torso, inhale fully through the nose. On the exhalation, snap the diaphragm back toward the spine, engaging the upper abdominal muscles to expel all the breath rapidly and forcefully through the nose. Keep the rhythm going, with small but definite inhales between the strong exhales, drawing the abdomen in as you exhale and relaxing it with the inhale. Do 10 rapid breaths in succession. this is one round. Practice up to 5 rounds, but stop if you feel dizzy or light headed.