Pranayama – Yogic Breathing Techniques

Definition:  "Prana" means life force.  "Ayama" means to control or master. Pranayama is the mastery...

Pranayama – Yogic Breathing Techniques



Definition:  “Prana” means life force.  “Ayama” means to control or master.

Pranayama is the mastery of the life force through breath control.

The Complete Breath:  The Three-Part Breath or the Yogic Breath

1) Sitting with your spine straight or lying down on your back, take a few deep breaths and relax.

2) With a slow and steady breath through the nostrils, inhale into the three chambers of your lungs:  1) the Abdominal (expanding the belly), 2) Thoracic (expanding the rib cage) and 3) Clavicular (expanding the upper chest and shoulders).

3) Slowly exhale, emptying the lungs from top to bottom.  Contract the abdominal muscles at the end of the exhalation to squeeze out all of the residual air.

4) Continue breathing in this way for five to thirty minutes, focusing on the sensation of breathing.

 

BENEFITS:

Relaxes the body.  Calms the mind.  Revitalizes the entire system.  Strengthens the abdominal muscles, diaphragm, heart and lungs.  Improves digestion and elimination.  Very soothing during menstruation.

Can be practiced during postures, relaxation, meditation, and throughout the day at any time and anywhere.

 

CAUTIONS:

Recent surgery to abdomen or chest.  All pranayama is best done on an empty stomach.

 

The Ujjayi Breath – the Sounding Breath or the Ocean Breath

1) Sitting with your spine straight or lying down on your back take a few deep breaths and relax.

2) With a slow and steady breath through the nostrils, gently contract the back of your throat (and glottis) creating a soft but audible hissing sound, practice whispering “Ahhh” with your mouth closed on both the exhalation and the inhalation.

3) Lengthen the breath as much as possible and focus on the sound.  Repeat for five to thirty minutes.

 

SPECIAL NOTES:

You may wish to hold the breath briefly at the top of the inhalation and/or at the end of the exhalation.  Or use the “circular” breath by connecting the inhalation to the exhalation.  Allow the breath to be one continuous flow, visualizing a circle of light, and breathing around that circle.

 

BENEFITS:

Same as the complete Breath but more pronounced.  Mind becomes absorbed into the sound of the breath, which induces meditation.  Deeply relaxing and soothing.

 

CAUTIONS:

Same as for complete Breath.

 

Kapalabhatti Breath

1) From a comfortable seated position with your spine straight, take a few deep breaths and relax.

2) Inhale through your nostrils and allow your belly to expand as if inflating a balloon.

3) Exhale forcefully through your nostrils by contracting the abdominal muscles, and then passively allow the inhalation to happen.  Repeat several times slowly, then pick up the pace finding your own comfortable rhythm.

4) At the end of several expulsions, exhale fully and hold the breath out for as long as is comfortable.

5) Inhale and hold the breath in.

6) Exhale and relax.  Focus your awareness on the third eye point between the eyebrows on the forehead.

7) Repeat one or two rounds beginning with 10-20 slow repetitions until you feel comfortable enough to speed up.  Over time gradually progress up to 70-110 repetitions per round.

 

SPECIAL NOTES:

a) The emphasis is on the exhalation which comes from a swift and dynamic contraction of the abdominal muscles.  The inhalation will happen naturally.

b) If you find that you are short of breath or feel dizzy, slow down and allow more time for the inhalation to happen.

c) if you find that you are having difficulty with the rhythm of Kapalabhatti, place your hands on your abdomen and press your belly in as you exhale forcefully.  As you inhale, release the belly press and allow your  belly to expand fully.

d) Be sure to keep your chest and rib cage lifted, but in a relaxed way. Relax your shoulders and face.

 

BENEFITS:

Energizes, revitalizes and recharges the entire nervous system, flooding it with a fresh supply of oxygen and prana.  Brings mental clarity and alertness.  Massages the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion and elimination.  Strengthens the diaphragm, heart and nerves.  Removes toxins and stale air from lungs.

 

CAUTIONS:

Menstruation, pregnancy, colitis, cancer in the abdominal region, recent surgery, un-medicated high blood pressure, emphysema or other severe lung condition, hernia.

 

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