Pranayama is the other side of yoga. While asanas like Down Dog condition your body, breath work gives your mind a workout. Even if you’re swamped with responsibilities at home and on the job, a few minutes of focusing on your breath will lift your spirits and calm your thoughts.
If you still think you’re too busy to sit around just breathing, remember the many benefits of pranayama. In addition to the mental and emotional boost, you’re strengthening your circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and immune systems.
Plus, the more you train, the more effectively you can use your breath to energize or relax at any time. Try these tips for starters.
General Tips for Pranayama
1. Find a comfortable position. Sit cross-legged on the floor or find an alternative that works for you. You can sit on a chair with a back and armrests if that helps.
2. Sit up straight. Wherever you sit, check your posture. Ensure your back is straight, your shoulders are lowered, and your chest is open.
3. Synchronize your movements. At some point in your practice, you may want to coordinate your breath with asanas or any body movement. In most cases, you exhale during the most strenuous part of the position.
4. Stop when dizzy. Pranayama can feel unnatural starting out while you’re fixing old habits like slouching or shallow breathing. Proceed gradually and take a break if you start to gasp or feel light-headed.
5. Add mantras. Once you master the basics, you may want to try thinking about an inspiring message or saying it out loud. Use traditional Sanskrit chants or invent your own statements. Speak softly to avoid straining your throat.
6. Rise up slowly. When you’re done, pause a moment to give thanks. Notice your peace and contentment, and carry those sensations with you through the day.
7. Practice moderation. Your breath is actually just one component of pranayama, which refers to your primary life force. You may want to learn more about chakras or just avoid excesses like too much eating or arguing.
Pranayama Exercises That Energize You
1. Divide by three. Three-part breathing teaches you to use your full lung capacity so your blood circulates oxygen and nutrients more efficiently. Put your hands on your midsection, and feel your abdomen extend out as you inhale. Draw air up through your ribcage and finally your upper chest. Reverse the process as you exhale so your abdomen draws in.
2. Hum a tune. As you exhale, liven things up even more with humming. The vibrations tone your pituitary gland.
3. Hiss like a snake. Hissing has a similar effect, and sharpens your concentration. Tighten the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale.
Pranayama Exercises That Relax You
1. Extend your exhalation. Simply lengthening your exhalations provides instant stress relief. Try to spend twice as much time exhaling as inhaling. Pause each time you breathe out to notice the sensation.
2. Cool off. Roll your tongue and stick it out so you can exhale through it like a straw. Imagine you’re blowing away tension and discomfort.
3. Alternate nostrils. Balance your brain by opening up both nostrils. Exhale and inhale on one side, and then place your thumb over that nostril. Keep switching sides as you continue for a few minutes.
Maybe there’s no time in your schedule for a spa vacation, and no room in your budget for a personal life coach. A few minutes of yoga breathing give you greater control over your breath so you can enjoy more energy, relaxation, and bliss. Experience a richer sense of harmony and feel more at ease in your body with these breathing exercises.