On my radio show the Wellness Blueprint Radio, my colleagues Deb Davies, Andrew Carr, and I talked about the benefits of pranayama. Because it was such an energetically expansive conversation and very informative, I felt that a follow up blog would be beneficial.
The word "prana" in sanskrit translates to life force, and "ayama" to control. So with the breathing technique of Pranayama we are learning to control our life force through the breath. It’s interesting, though, to observe how "controlling the life force" translates to other aspects of our lives. Before I get all metaphysical, however, let me get back to the benefits of Pranayama.
Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We are so used to breathing with our chest that we don’t take advantage of our total lung capacity. By breathing to our full lung capacity we actually increase the amount of oxygen that goes to our brain and our tissues and organs. This helps the metabolism, lowers blood pressure, releases toxins, fosters digestion, increases sports performance, decreases asthma, and increases concentration and alertness. In addition, the discipline of slowing down to breathe also helps in relaxation from stress and decreases muscle tension.
So what are some techniques of Pranayama?
Below I have taken a few pranayama that I’ve practiced and compiled them with a few pictures to help demonstrate the technique. These techniques can be done at home or at work, but are best done in private. It is wise to develop a set time of day that you can practice for your own self care, however, if you are in a stressful moment, these techniques can be utilized as well. The first and most important thing is to find a comfortable and quiet place and position to sit. You may sit on your knees, cross legged, in lotus position, or upright in a chair. The next most important thing is posture. Your posture must not be slouched. Sit upright so that you get full expansion of your abdomen and chest when you breath. Now on to the specific pranayama exercises:
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep the palms on the knees and observe your natural breathing. Feel the breath flowing and out of the lungs. Let the breathing be natural. Feel the abdominal movement while breathing. While inhaling , let the abdominal wall move out and while exhaling let it move in. Keep your mind clear, only "observing" your breathing. While inhaling, feel the power and energy flow and while exhaling imagine throwing out tension, stress and disease.
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Be calm and close your eyes. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Now inhale slowly through the left nostril and fill your lungs. After complete inhalation, press the left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand and close the left nostril. Open the right nostril, exhale slowly. After complete exhalation, again inhale through the right nostril and fill your lungs. Close the right nostril by pressing it with the right thumb. After opening the left nostril, breathe out slowly. This process is one round of Nadi Shudhi Pranayam.
- Cleanses and tones up entire nervous system
- People suffering from cough and cold benefit greatly
- Heart is strengthened
- Blocked nostrils are cleared
- Removes mental tension and worries
- Induces feeling of peace
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep both palms on the knees in Gyan Mudra. Draw out the tongue. Roll it up from the sides to form a tube like opening. Slowly suck the air through it and fill the lungs completely. After full inhalation withdraw the tongue and close the mouth. Hold the breath for sometime and then slowly exhale through the nose. Repeat required number of times.
- Useful in treating fever
- Good for liver, spleen, and is a good blood purifier
- Reduces tension and high blood pressure
- Cools the nervous system
Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Exhale through both nostrils, contracting the middle and lower abdomen portions. Release the contractions quickly and immediately follow with another forceful exhalation . Inhale passively and effortlessly. Gradually increase the frequency to about 100 strokes/minute. After the round take a deep breath and gradually exhale.
- Cleans capillaries of the remotest part of the body
- Purifies the frontal portion of the brain
- Aid in combating asthma, diabetes, and chronic bronchitis besides other nervous disorders
- Cleans the nasal passages
Sit with your spine erect, or lie down on your back. Begin taking long, slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils.
As you inhale, allow the belly to fill with air, drawing air deep into the lower lungs. As you exhale, allow the belly to deflate like a balloon. Repeat several times, keeping the breath smooth and relaxed, and never straining. Repeat several times.
Breathe into your belly as in Step #1, but also expand the mid-chest region by allowing the rib cage to open outward to the sides. Exhale and repeat several times.
Follow steps #1 and #2 and continue inhaling by opening the clavicular region or upper chest. Exhale and repeat.
Combine all three steps into one continuous or complete flow.
- Promotes proper diaphragmatic breathing
- Relaxes the mind and body
- Oxygenates the blood and purges the lungs of residual carbon dioxide
These are just a few exercises that can be alternated daily.
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