While practising Pranayama:
It is a good idea to imagine the breath as a colour, maybe a bright energetic yellow as it fills your lungs. Then imagine your exhaling air to be a stale colour such as brown, ridding your body of all the dirty impurities and toxins.
Remember if you feel dizzy or unwell at any time, return to your natural breathing. It is important to listen to your own body and only do what you can comfortably manage.
Please be careful if you:
have low blood pressure/depression – make sure exhalations are not too long
have High Blood Pressure/Heart problems – make sure inhalations are not too deep
are Pregnant – take it easy, not too deep with inhalation, not too long on exhalation
DIRGHA – FULL YOGIC BREATHING or COMPLETE BREATH
This can be performed either lying down in Savasana (corpse pose), sitting in Siddhasana (perfect pose) or standing in Tadasana (mountain pose). The effect can be enhanced by raising the arms above the head when inhaling, and lowering them when exhaling.
Step 1: Abdominal breathing
Observe your natural breath. You will notice that as you inhale the abdomen rises and then falls with exhalation. Watch this for a few moments to check this flow. Now begin to deepen, lengthen and extend that movement. That is, while inhaling, let the abdomen rise to its limit and at exhalation let it fall completely. Keep the chest still during this entire process – only move the abdomen. Continue this for 10 breaths and then rest.
Step 2: Thoracic (chest) breathing
Again observe your normal breath, this time focusing your attention on the chest. You will notice the chest moving slightly up at inhalation and down with exhalation. Again observe this pattern for a few moments. Now again, begin to deepen, lengthen and extend that movement. This time, on inhalation expand and lift the rib cage, filling the lungs completely. Then on exhalation, let the lungs collapse fully, sinking to the limits. In this step, keep the abdomen still, moving only the chest. Do this for 10 breath cycles and then stop
Step 3: Full Yogic breathing
This combines the above 2 steps in the following way:
First inhale by filling the abdomen and then CONTINUE inhaling as you expand and fill the chest. Then exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls and then CONTINUE exhaling from the abdomen as it draws inwards completely. This is one round of the full yogic breath. Repeat this for 10 rounds.
Remember the pattern… Inhaling – abdomen then chest; Exhaling – chest then abdomen.
GOLDEN RULE: All of the above steps should be done WITHOUT strain. Initially you will experience unevenness or bumps in this breathing process – as if there are 4 separate parts to the full yogic breath. This is natural considering the years we have spent breathing improperly. But try to picture this breath as a continuous wave like pattern – as if the breath moves up from the navel to the throat with every inhalation and then, down from the throat to the navel with each exhalation.
The full yogic breath is the basic building block of Pranayama. The tangible benefits of the full yogic breath are that it:
® Releases acute and chronic muscular tensions around the heart and digestive organs.
® Helps sufferers of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema to overcome the fear of shortness of breath and actually increases lung capacity.
® Encourages proper nervous stimulus to the cardio-vascular system
® Dramatically reduces emotional and nervous anxiety
® Improves detoxification through increased exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen
® Amplifies the auto immune system by increased distribution of energy to the endocrine system
® Calms the mind and integrates the mental / physical balance.
The success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, retention, exhalation and relaxation. This ratio is a count of 2 inhalations and exhalations to 1 retention and relaxation as follows:
Inhalation: 1-2-3-4, retention: 1-2, Exhalation: 1-2-3-4, Relaxation: 1-2
This can be practiced as often as you wish, gradually increase the length to about 10:5.
KAPALABHATI (THE CLEANSING BREATH)
This breath consists of a deep inhale through the nose followed by short sharp exhalations through the mouth.
Feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, hands on thighs, lean slightly forward; or you can kneel high on your knees.
Take a deep long breath in
Pucker your lips as if trying to blow up a balloon. Exhale in a short, forceful burst through the mouth, then hold the breath briefly. Repeat this and each time you exhale, lean forward a little more, bending at the hips. Do this until the lungs are completely empty.
Straighten up to your starting position as you breathe in deeply again through your nose.
Repeat this exercise about 5 times.
Effects: Cleansing, rids the lungs of impurities and toxins, strengthens and tones the diaphragm, clears the head.
UJJAYII PRANAYAMA (VICTORIOUS BREATH)
This practice allows further control your breath and the flow of Prana into and out of your body.
Sit in Siddhasana (Perfect pose)
Take a deep breath in
Open the mouth and breathe out making a haaa sound, as if fogging a mirror
Repeat this 2 times
Half way through your next exhalation close your mouth so the breath comes out of your nose. This should create a hmmm noise like a punctured tyre deflating.
If you cover the ears it should sound like the ocean.
Open your mouth to breathe in making a haaa sound
Exhale normally and repeat this 3 times
Half way into the next inhalation, close the mouth making a hmmm sound
practice 10 Ujjayii inhalations and exhalations, long and steady complete breaths
This breath is good to use throughout your asana (posture) practice to lengthen the effect of the posture and breath. It regulates and controls the breath and is particularly good for flowing (Vinyasa) yoga sequences. It also allows greater breath/movement relations.
NADI SODHANA (also known as NADI SUDDHI) – ALTERNATIVE NOSTRIL BREATHING
As the name suggests this breath consists of breathing alternately through each nostril.
Sit in Siddhasana
curl the fingers of the right (or left) hand, leaving your little finger & thumb straight
place the thumb of the othe hand to the inside of the index finger. The sections of the insides of the fingers can be used to count the rounds that have been performed by moving the thumb to the next section on each round completed
hold the right nostril closed with the thumb (or left if using the left hand)
breathe in deeply through the left nostril
Hold both nostrils closed with the thumb and little finger for a moment
release the thumb and exhale through the right nostril
pause for a moment
breathe in deeply through the right nostril
replace the thumb holding both nostrils closed for a moment
release the little finger and exhale fully through the left nostril
pause for a moment
This is one complete round. You may now move the thumb of the left hand to the next section of your finger.
Practice 5 complete rounds, increasing to 10 over time.
Make sure the elbow of the raised arm is held outwards a little so it doesn’t restrict your chest. Change your arms if there is tension in the shoulders.
This practice purifies (suddhi) the meridians (nadi), in fact your pingala nadi and ida nadi. It balances the nervous system and is particularly useful when you are uptight and confused. It calms the mind and helps you to settle if practiced at bedtime. It has also been known to ease migraine and has a decongestant effect.
BHRAMARI (HUMMING BEE BREATH)
As the name suggests, this breath consists of exhaling with a humming sound.
Any comfortable seated or kneeling posture, you may cover the eyes if you wish
Mouth should be closed, jaw relaxed, teeth apart, tongue softly touching the palate
Exhale making a humming sound
Bring awareness to the vibrations expanding them out of the throat and throughout the head and body
Practice for 2-5 minutes then rest to enjoy the effects
If you experience any dizziness or tingling return to your normal breathing.
This practice brings constancy to the breath, naturally deepens inhalation and encourages slow, rhythmic breathing. It provides a point of focus and has a soothing effect on the Body, Mind & Spirit.