Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम ) is one of the 5 points of yoga: proper breathing. It teaches us to control our breathing, to control our minds and meditate easier. ‘Prana’ means : subtle energy, life force or vital energy. ‘Ayama’ means: to extend or draw out.
In today’s world, people often don’t breathe properly, meaning, they breathe in the top parts of their lungs only. You may notice this when you are stressed out or when sitting with hunched shoulders in front of your PC.
As soon as you lie on your back and try to breathe deeply in through the nose into the abdomen, you will realize the force of proper breathing: you will quickly feel more energized, more calm. Personally I found Pranayama to be life-changing. One day without my morning Pranayama exercises shows me directly the need for it. I am more calm, focused & in the present moment when I practice Pranayama exercises in the morning.
What does Pranayama teach us? It teaches us to breathe properly, to use the full capacity of the lungs, to draw more freshly oxygen in & more stale air out of our body. This gives more oxygen to the cells, including the brain.
Try this @ home:
1. ABDOMINAL BREATHING
A beginner starts practicing to breathe into the abdomen while lying on your back. You inhale on four counts through the nose (mouth is closed) and your belly fills with air, as if it’s a balloon. You exhale on 4 counts through the nose and you contract the diaphragm while dropping the belly button down to the spine. Breathe like this for 5 minutes to relax your body & mind completely. You can do this exercise while lying down or when sitting in your car or on your bike. You can do this exercise using your right hand and placing it on your abdomen, to feel it move up & down, or you can use a book & place it on your abdomen, until you feel you’ve mastered ths way of proper breathing.
2. FULL YOGIC BREATHING
Once you feel that the abdominal breathing comes easy to you, you are ready to move on to the next breathing exercise. This is the Full Yogic Breathing.
Breathe in slowly, expand the abdomen, then the rib cage and finally the upper portion of the lungs (into the shoulders). Then, breathe out in the same manner, letting the abdomen cave in as you exhale. This is the Yogic complete breath. You can do this exercise while lying down or when sitting in your car or on your bike.
Sivananda yoga teaches two main forms of Pranayama breathing: Kabalabhati* (or clean skull) and Anuloma Viloma* (alternate nostril breathing). In each Sivananda Yoga class, these Pranayamas are taught. These exercises will be explained in more detail soon on this blog.
TIP: Make daily use of a neti pot to clean your sinuses and nose and make Pranayama easier, read more about neti pot cleaning here
* don’t practice Kapala Bhati nor the retention in Anuloma Viloma in case you are pregant.