Pranayama is an ancient discipline that translates to “breath control”. However, this practice is often misinterpreted as a breathing exercise aimed at achieving the ability to hold one’s breath for a long time.
Pranayama involves various breathing techniques or breathing exercises. The word prana means life force and Yama refers to physical control. Pranayama is therefore an extension of techniques that help us improve our health and quality of life by focusing on the breath.
Pranayama breathing techniques
Here is an overview of six pranayama breathing techniques to calm your mind:
1) Three-Part Breath
This technique gets its name from the fact that when you practice it, you breathe actively in three different parts of the abdomen. This is probably one of the best pranayama techniques for beginners because it gets you used to filling your lungs and breathing meditatively.
- Lie on your back, preferably on a soft surface. and breathe in the belly; watch it expand with each breath.
- When it feels full, inhale more air to fill your rib cage and leave some more to fill your chest.
- Exhale slowly from the upper chest, then from the rib cage and finally from the belly. Do this for 10 to 20 breaths.
2) Abdominal breathing
Yogic abdominal breathing can help you control your breathing, correct bad breathing habits, and increase the amount of oxygen you take in with each breath. Breathing exercises can help you become more aware of your natural breathing patterns.
To do this exercise:
- Sit in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
- Breathe as calmly as possible.
- Feel the air descend into your throat and all the way to the bottom of your lungs as you exhale.
- When you can’t breathe, take a little more until you feel an expansion in your ribs and chest.
- Do this exercise five times or as long as you feel comfortable.
3) Nadi Sodhana’Alternate nostril breathing
If you’ve heard of “the practice of breathing,” or if you’ve done it before, you may have heard of alternate nostril breathing. It is a type of pranayama that helps balance the three doshas of human experience: mind, body, and soul.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor, left hand on left knee.
- Exhale completely and use your right hand to close your right nostril.
- Inhale through the left side and close that nostril with your other fingers.
- Open your right nostril and exhale fully while inhaling through that side.
- Close this nostril and open the left; exhale fully while inhaling through.
4) Shitali Pranayama “Refreshing Breath”
It is a refreshing breath that can cool the body, induce muscle relaxation, and reduce mental and emotional stress. To do Sitali Pranayama, inhale through your rolled up tongue to create a cooling sensation on the tongue and the roof of your mouth.
To do this pose:
- Get as comfortable as possible by lying flat on your back with your spine straight.
- Close your eyes, relax your whole body and breathe gently.
- Extend your tongue as far outside of your mouth as you can and curl the edges to form a tube.
- Inhale through the rolled up tongue for nine cycles of this breathing and exhale through the nose.
- Start with nine breath cycles each time you practice it, and gradually increase to 15 cycles if you have time.
5) Sitkari Pranayama (hissing teeth breath)
Sitkari and Sitali Pranayama are two versions of a cooling breathing exercise. Sitkari involves inhaling through your teeth, which can be uncomfortable if you have sensitive teeth. Sitali involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling through slightly parted lips, so you can try this one instead.
To do it:
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Relax your whole body by breathing in through your teeth, partially parting your lips, and exhaling through your nose.
- Do this for nine rounds and gradually increase the number of rounds up to 15 if you have time.
6) Bhramari Pranayama (bee breath)
This breathing exercise involves humming with your voice. This vibration can help calm your mind, relieve frustration or anxiety, and prepare you for meditation.
How to do:
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Place your index fingers on the cartilage of your ears, just above your jawbone.
- Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly while emitting a steady buzz like a bumblebee.
- Repeat for ten breaths.
Pranayama practice can easily be incorporated into our daily lives, and there are many benefits to doing so.
By focusing our attention on the breath and changing the way we breathe, we can influence our mood, physical health, and emotions. Nowadays, with almost everything that stresses us out and keeps us from focusing on the present, pranayama is an invaluable tool to help us live a stress-free life.
Q. Have you tried these different breathing techniques?
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