B R E A T H E- Pranayama
I'd have to say that breathing for me was one of the most important and helpful aspects in the beginning of my yoga practice and still remains a top priority. I'm what you call a habitual breath holder, meaning that my breathing is almost non-existent at times, short, and shallow. Self-awareness tells me this is most likely from stress, anxiety, and watching my mother struggle to breath with Emphysema.
The fourth of Patanjali's Eight Limbs; Pranayama (breath control) has taught me to be mindful of my breath and to know that my breath is directly linked to my state of mind. Steady breath - steady mind. I think for me it was mainly learning to check in with myself several times a day to see how efficiently I was breathing and take just a handful of deep diaphragmatic (belly) breaths. Just those deep breaths is all you need to help calm the nervous system down.
Pranayama is about teaching us to control the breath; to "enhance" our prana (life force).
- Helps clear your mind
- Great for focus
- Boost the Immune system
- Increases energy
- Helps relieve stress and anxiety
Breathing techniques (lots to learn, but these are my favorites)-
- Three part breath- Dirga pranayama- I find this to be the most comfortable lying down with eyes gently closed, placing one hand on the belly and one hand on your chest. Start with a natural breath through the nose. The first part is breathing deep through the nose bringing your breath down into the belly, feeling your hand rise. Imagine your breath is like water filling up a vessel. Then you inhale reaching up to your chest area, feeling your hand rise there. Eventually that long breath reaches your collar bone and for some it might not. That's ok, because this is a practice and it may take some time to get the breath to reach all the way up there. When you have reached the peak of your inhale either at the chest level or collar bone, then you can exhale slowly out through the nose. Stay there for five minutes. Come out of corpse pose lying on your right side for a few natural breaths and take your time to come to a seated position. Now enjoy feeling a sense of peace, balance, and relaxation.
- Complete belly breath- Sitting up tall in a chair or on the floor, place one hand on your belly and inhale through the nose bringing the breath down into the lower part of the lungs... I always say imagine you're blowing up your belly like a balloon feeling your hand rise. Then exhale out through the nose. You can also count with a focus on doubling the number on the exhale; breathing in for a count of two and exhaling for a count of 4. Now this will help you feel really good and get you straight out of your monkey mind.
- Ocean breath or Ujjayi breath- (my go to for my physical practice)- Breathing in through the nose, while (gently) constricting the vocal cords, you're sipping that air - sounding a bit like Darth Vadar, then on your exhale imagine you are fogging up a mirror with your breath, but through the nose... sounding like haaaaah. If you want to feel strength and focus while moving from one pose to the next or even to help you out in a hard hold, this is one to learn.