Breathing is, as we know, essential to life and it is essential to the practice of yoga. In Sanskrit the word for life and breath is exactly the same and it is one you have already come across: prana. Manipulating prana is the primary purpose of breathing exercises in yoga.
We need to breathe in order to live and, in order to practice yoga or meditation, we need to learn how to breathe correctly. You can do this by following these easy steps:
* Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit with your legs crossed in front of you. If you wish, you can sit in the half lotus position, the classic seated asana wherein one foot rests on your opposite thigh.
* Sit up straight and allow your shoulders to relax away from your ears. Tilt your chin slightly towards your chest.
* Put one hand on your navel and place the other on your lower back so that you can feel your belly expanding as you inhale.
* Keeping your lower jaw relaxed and your mouth closed, breathe in and out slowly through your nose. Imagine that your abdomen is a balloon and that you are filling and then deflating it with every breath.
* Try to picture the lower part of your lungs and imagine yourself filling them up from the bottom to the top. Make sure that your inhalation is long, deep and expansive and that your exhalation is slow and complete.
* When you have practiced this for a few minutes, relax, stand up and shake your body. Repeat every day for a week and you will find that not only will your have energy increased but also your concentration and your ability to stay calm in stressful situations.
Don’t get frustrated if, at first, you can’t seem to get this sequence right. Yoga is all about practice and does not demand or expect perfection.
Most people will find that, to start with, they seem to have a fairly small lung capacity and this is usually due to lack of correct use. The more you practice this, deepening your breath and expanding your lungs, you will find that your lung capacity grows enormously over time.
By breathing in deeply enough to draw air into the lower part of your lungs, you get seven times the oxygen you would normally have taken in through general breathing.
In yoga, there are several different forms of breathing, the most well-known being:
* Ujayii or the Special Yogic Breath
* The Energizing Breath
* The Cooling Breath
* The Balancing Breath
Ujjayi Or The Special Yogic Breath
Ujjayi is a method of breathing that is specific to yoga. It involves breathing in and out through the nose while permitting the breath to create a gentle sound at the back of the throat.
Some people liken this method of breathing to the way that Darth Vader breathes in Star Wars. It can also be compared to the way you breathe through your mouth when fogging up a mirror except that it is done through the nose.
Although this form of breathing feels and sounds very strange at first, you will find that the more you do it, the more you focus on the rhythm of your breath and on the sensation of the air filling your body. The Ujjayi breath is all about breathing in life force, or prana, so that we can both practice yoga and live in a more complete, energized way.
The Energizing Breath
The Energizing Breath also known as the Breath of Fire and is considered in ancient Indian philosophy to cure many illnesses.
The Energizing Breath is perfect for when you’re tired and need a quick energy boost or for when you simply need to clear your mind.
To practice the Energizing Breath follow these steps:
* Sit with your legs crossed and place both hands on your lower abdomen so that you can feel what happens with your breath.
* Breathe in through your nose, keeping the breath long and deep, feeling your belly filling up. Exhale in the same fashion, feeling your belly deflating as if it were a balloon. Do this 3 to 5 times.
* After the last long inhalation, perform 10 fast exhalations, allowing yourself a short inhalation between each exhalation. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
If you begin to feel dizzy while practicing the Energizing Breath, simply curl forward, bringing your head down to your knees and taking a few long, deep breaths.
The Energizing Breath does require some practice so do not get frustrated if at first you are not able to get it right.
The Cooling Breath
The Cooling Breath slows down your heart rate allowing you to center and calm yourself while regaining your focus.
To practice the Cooling Breath follow these steps:
* Curl your tongue and stick it out a little so that when you breathe in it is as if you’re sucking the air in through a straw. Now inhale through your mouth.
* Slowly and gently exhale through your nose. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
The Balancing Breath
The Balancing Breath is a technique that has been used by yogis for many hundreds of years to help balance and center both mind and body.
To practice the Balancing Breath follow these steps:
* Sit straight with your legs crossed.
* Using your right hand, place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril, curling your other fingers into your palm.
* Close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril for a count of five.
* Now close the left nostril and breathe out through your right nostril for a count of five.
* Alternate once more and breathe in through the right nostril for a count of five.
* Repeat through the left nostril, exhaling for a count of five and carry on in this way for anything up to 15 minutes.