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Life is full of challenges, and one of our main goals is to be able to navigate the waters of daily tasks while maintaining a positive outlook. Work, schedules, errands, and other struggles affect us more than they should, but we can find ways to become more conscious of the little stones in our shoes that prevent us from living more fulfilled, healthier, happier lives. Here is where Pranayama comes to the rescue.
Pranayama is a combination of two Sanskrit words: Prana (breathing, air, life, vital strength, vital force) and Yama (control, extend, draw out). Its origin is traced back to ancient India, and widely used in the practice of yoga. Like the term conveys, it is the art of controlling your breath, and intentionally regulating it to produce specific results.
Overall, Pranayama has been said to have many health benefits and is supposed to help treat asthma and stress related disorders such as anxiety and depression, and even trains the lungs to improve respiratory system capacity. It also works directly on the nervous system which controls basic functions of the body such as the heart rate and blood pressure, slowing the ageing process and making your skin glow while releasing toxins. It provides stillness of mind and lightness in your body, and it helps clear blocked energy channels. Want more?
There are several types of Pranayama techniques that you can begin to incorporate into your daily routines.
Today, we’ll give you three of the most common Pranayama exercises to get you started. You'll thank us later!
Starting position: Sit on a firm chair with an erect backrest, if unable to sit on the floor. Keep the body above the waist straight and the spine upright.
Technique: Inhale deeply and exhale slowly, smoothly and continuously in a controlled manner from the nostrils with a little force, making a humming sound like that of a bee. Keep the mouth closed throughout the practice. The sound doesn´t need to be very loud, but it should create vibrations that will send a soothing wave throughout your nervous system.
Recommended practice: Practice 5 rounds per session, with a pause in-between rounds.
Benefits of Bhramari Pranayama
- Creates a calming effect on the nervous system
- Restores the elasticity of lungs and is beneficial in asthmatic conditions
- Induces meditative states to quiet the mind
- Relieves hypertension and stress
- Reduces tension and anxiety
- Helps reduce anger and frustration
Starting position: Kneel with your buttocks resting on your feet. You can criss-cross your ankles under your seat.
Technique: Inhale deeply through the nose and as you exhale, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and open the eyes wide, letting all of your breath go with an audible “Ah” sound. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the third eye (center of forehead) while inhaling.
Recommended practice: Repeat 2-3 times per session, and follow with a resting position such as Child’s pose or Savasana, relaxing your throat and facial muscles.
Benefits of Simhasana Pranayama
-Helps strengthen muscles in the throat
-Increases the internal temperature of the body, in preparation for more advanced Pranayama practices
- Releases inhibitions, allows one to find their true voice, and helps to get excess tension off the chest
Starting position: Lie down on your back with the eyes closed, relaxing your face and your body. You can keep the legs outstretched or bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to your mat if that's more comfortable. If you bend your knees, let them rest against each other.
Technique: Begin to inhale and exhale deeply through the nose. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon. On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw your navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is free of air.
Repeat this deep belly breathing for five breaths [this is part one].
On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air as described above. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage, causing the ribs to widen apart. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and then from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for five breaths [this is part two].
On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air as described above. Then sip in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart to expand and rise. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center to sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together.
Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine. Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without interruption.
Recommended practice: Continue with the technique for about 10 full 3-part-breaths to complete a session.
Benefits of Dirga Pranayama
- One of the most calming, grounding breathing exercises you can do
- Helps focus your attention on the present moment
- Helps to get in tune with the sensations of your physical body
-Calms your mind and body, reducing your anxiety levels
-Promotes a full and ideal breathing
-Increases the oxygen supply to your blood stream
-Helps keep your lungs healthy
-Releases tension in the muscles
-Prepares you for deeper meditation states
Try taking (at least) between 15-30 minutes each day, whether it be in the morning, before bedtime or anytime you need it - to focus on your breath. You can also start without any particular technique, or position: just paying attention to your breath: in and out, while sitting or lying down, even while standing or walking. The idea is for you to bring attention to your mind and body, that way you feel calm and relaxaed, especially when you feel in need.