Now that you know what Pranayama is all about, let’s take a look at the main exercises and breathing techniques it entails.
Nadi Shodhanam (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Use this before an exam or before going to bed, because it clears the mind of unnecessary thoughts.
- Get into a comfortable upright position, with your back straight but unsupported.
- Lift your right hand and place your right middle and pointer fingers in the palm of your hand, leaving only the ring finger, pinky and thumb free.
- Take your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Now take your right ring finger and place it over your left nostril to exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, seal with your thumb then exhale through the left, inhale and seal with your ring finger.
- Continue, while keeping in mind that each time you inhale you seal the nostril and exhale through the other nostril. It might take some practice before you learn how to do it, so don’t let yourself be discouraged if you don’t nail it from the start.
● Calms and centers the mind.
● Our mind has a tendency to keep regretting or glorifying the past and getting anxious about the future – this practice anchors the mind in the present.
● Works therapeutically for most circulatory and respiratory problems.
● Releases accumulated stress in the mind and body effectively and helps relax.
● Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
● Helps purify and balance the nadis – the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
● Maintains body temperature.
Bellows Breath (Bhastrika)
A very invigorating practice, ideal to wake yourself up in the morning or during a long meeting or lecture, as it brings oxygen to the bloodstream.
- Sit upright either on a chair or on your yoga mat, with your spine straight.
- Forcefully breathe in and out through your nose quite rapidly, with each breath taking 1 second, while contracting your abdominal muscles like the bellows of a blacksmith. Don’t be afraid to make a sound, inhaling and exhaling with force is normally audible.
- You can place your hands on your belly to make sure that your belly contracts when you exhale and expands when you inhale.
- Repeat 10 times, and then have some resting breaths.
- One full practice entails 1-3 rounds with 7-11 breaths per round.
● Bhastrika pranayama increases oxygen and decreases carbon dioxide in the blood
● It calms the mind and stimulates the body.
● It removes blockages in the nose and chest.
● It is good for asthma patients and removes inflammation of the throat
● It improves digestion and appetite
● Bhastrika improves general health and activates all the organs
This is the most used breathing technique, as it can be performed during physical practices. Think bodybuilding, running or stretching, not just the typical yoga styles. Ujjai means “victorious”, but this technique is also called “ocean breath” because when done right, the sound you emit resembles the sound of the wave.
- Sit in a seated cross-legged position. Breathe in and out through your nose.
- Imagine sipping the breath through a straw.
- Constrict the throat as you gently pull the breath in and push it out. This should create a soothing sound, similar to the sound of rolling ocean waves. After you master it, you can use this breathing technique to focus in challenging yoga poses or during your other activities.
● Ujjai can help with: releasing tension and tight areas of the body, colds, coughing, thyroid problems, snoring, sleep apnea, heart disease, asthma, lungs diseases, throat problems like tonsillitis, thyroid glands, etc., insomnia, mental stress, hypertension, dyspepsia, rheumatism, dropsy, tuberculosis, fever, spleen disorders, etc.
● It should be practiced regularly to keep the throat fit, healthy and melodious.