Pranayama is the art of breath-work. ‘Prana’ is life force – our breath, and ‘yama’ is discipline. This is why the 8 limbs of yoga are called the yamas and niyamas – the disciplines of yoga to live a healthy and happy life. See our post on 8 Limbs of Yoga blog for more information on Yamas & Niyamas.
How Pranayama Helps Your Meditation
You’ve likely heard you can only think about one thing at a time, so choose positive thoughts. This is part of the beauty of meditation and pranayama. By focusing on a single positive thought, a breath pattern, or a sensation – you become immersed. By focusing on the breath, we are able to let our minds neutralize and reach a more balanced and happier state! It is not possible to control the mind with the mind. This is why pranayama is an essential aspect of meditation.
Notice Your Breath
First please take notice of your breath. Is it rapid? Short? Long? Slow? Deep? Is your chest expanding? Is your belly expanding? Place a hand on your lower abdomen, close your eyes and begin to connect with your breath for a minute. Has it changed?
Forms of Pranayama to Try
There are many forms of breathwork, that can be practiced, each serving different purposes:
- Calming – simple inhale with your belly expanding and exhale through the nose, flowing into each other is incredibly soothing. This is also called Ocean Breath or Ujjayi when you try to ‘fog up the mirror’ on your exhale – it creates a slight constriction in the throat making the sound of the ocean.
- Deep calming – inhale for 4 seconds letting your stomach expand, retain the breath for 4 counts, exhale for 6 seconds, and hold out for 2. Continue with this breath.
- Cooling – rolling the sides of your tongue upward and sticking your tongue slightly out, inhale and exhale. You will notice a cooling sensation. This is great for fevers! If you have a one with a fever, lay them on your bare chest skin-to-skin as you do this breath.
- Energizing – with Breath of Fire it’s important to ground yourself first. Close your eyes and imagine a golden cord or roots extending from the base of your spine into the earth. Feel that sense of connection. When you are ready, begin by taking a long belly-breath. Exhale in quick contractions, drawing your navel towards your spine. For each long inhale, you should be able to do 10 exhales. Rest between and continue.
- With kids – to help children calm and sleep, have them lay down and place a hand on their belly. As they inhale imagining their bellies are like balloons expanding, and exhaling to let the air out of the balloon through their nose or mouth.
There are many more pranayama techniques you can try too, but more advanced ones are best in a class with a practitioner who can help you ground appropriately. Check out our Yin and Kundalini classes for more pranayama!