Pranayama with me

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Remember to breathe. Deeply. Like really deeply.
Inhale the good and exhale what’s no longer serving you.

Breathing does wonders, my friend.

Sometimes my morning mindfulness practice is just Pranayama. Pranayama is a "breathwork" practice, otherwise known as an "asana"; which proves to be a powerful way to reconnect and center your mind. See this as another form of yoga, another way to exercise the mind. In some cases, all people do is breathwork. Asana is just one way to reach higher states of consciousness and awareness. Meditation is a path as well. Yoga isn't meant to be one way or another, it is laid out so that we can choose the things that work best for our bodies and minds. So if doing the splits doesn't feel good, don't do them! If you do breath of fire and your blood pressure goes up, find another way. I've learned that Yoga is a path to find the sweetness in your life. Tap in and Do the best sweet things for yourself. 

Here's How

How many times have you caught yourself holding onto your breathe when doing something stressful or breathing rapidly to get things done? Perhaps you're stressed out, worn out, emotionally off, or making your way through a challenging yoga class, pranayama breathing can renew and sustain you. Learn the basics of breath control with this pranayama primer.

Ocean Breath: Ujjayi Pranayama

Literally meaning "victorious," Ujjayi Pranayama (ooh-JAH-yee prah-nah-YAH-mah) is also commonly known as Ocean Breath. During Ujjayi, the practitioner completely fills the lungs while slightly contracting the throat and breathing through the nose. This breath technique is used throughout an Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga class to help practitioners stay warm, calm, and present.

Ujjai breath also calms the mind and is said to be highly beneficial to those suffering from insomnia and mental tension.

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position such as what I have pictured up there which is called Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Hero Pose (Virasana), or Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana) also works too.

  2. Inhale deeply through your mouth. Feel the air of your inhalations passing down through your windpipe.

  3. Now slightly contract the back of the throat, as you do when you whisper and exhale. Imagine your breath is fogging up a window.

  4. Keep this contraction of the throat as you inhale and exhale, then gently close your mouth and continue breathing through your nose.

  5. Concentrate on the sound of the breath, which will soothe your mind. It should be audible to you, but not so loud that someone standing several feet away can hear it.

  6. Let your inhalations fill your belly, ribs, and chest; completely release the air on your exhalations.

  7. Begin to synchronize your breath with your movements, inhaling with upward moves and exhaling with downward moves.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (NAH-dee shoh-DAH-nuh prah-nah-YAH-mah) — literally "channel clearing" — is a purifying pranayama that alternates the blockage of each nostril to channel air in a concentrated flow. It balances and channels of energy in the body, activating and harmonizing the left and right hemispheres of the brain to ease stress and anxiety.

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana).

  2. Close the right nostril with your right thumb.

  3. Inhale deeply through the left nostril.

  4. Close the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand as you release the right nostril.

  5. Exhale slowly through your right nostril.

  6. Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale deeply through your right nostril.

  7. Seal the right nostril again with your thumb, then release the left nostril.

  8. Exhale out of the left nostril. You should now be in the original position, with the thumb sealing the right nostril.

  9. Repeat the process ten times, gradually increasing the number of repetitions.

  10. Once you gain full breath control during Nadi Shodhana, begin to hold your breath for a moment at the top and bottom of each inhale/exhale cycle. Never strain; let this next stage develop gradually.

Three-Part Breath: Dirga Pranayama

Known commonly as Three-Part Breath, Dirga Pranayama (DEER-gah prah-nah-YAH-mah) is usually the first breathing technique taught to new practitioners. It brings awareness to the present moment and calms the mind, and is often used at the very beginning of a yoga practice to settle in and prepare oneself for practice and meditation.

This technique is particularly beneficial in everyday life, because it requires no special sound or position to achieve a grounded and relaxed state of awareness.

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position like Easy Pose (Sukhasana), or lie on your back in Corpse Pose (Savasana).

  2. Rest one hand on your belly and one hand on your rib cage.

  3. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply but naturally.

  4. Begin to focus your awareness on the breath as it moves in and out of your body.

  5. Feel the lift of your belly and the expansion of your ribs on your inhalations; and the slight compression of your ribs and drop of your belly as you exhale.

  6. Next, bring your bottom hand to your chest, just below your collarbone. Breathe all the way into this area and allow your chest to rise slightly; then exhale and let it go.

  7. Feel your belly lift, ribs expand, and chest lift as you inhale; on your exhalations, notice how your chest drops, ribs contract, and belly lowers.

  8. Release your arms and focus your mind on your breath, inhaling and exhaling fully.

Let It Out

Pranayama exercises can benefit the mind and body in many ways and on many levels, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Remember to take it slowly and to build on your experience to further develop your breath control.

Always consult a teacher on the proper technique of a particular breathing exercise before attempting it, and stop if you’re feeling faint or dizzy. With practice, you’ll learn toguide your breath — so your breath can guide your practice.

LIFESTYLEAlice Chen