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Yogic Breath (pranayama)

Breathing techniques that bring great relaxation to your body and mind.
 

Yogic Breath (or pranayama) exercise controls your breath, clears the energy around you, expands your aura, and heightens the spirit. Practicing Yogic Breath makes you energetic, enthusiastic and positive.
 
The word "pranayama" is derived from "Prana", which is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish, and "Ayama", which means "to regulate or lengthen". In other words, pranayama (or Yogic Breath) is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is our vital life force.
 
There are a total of six types of Yogic Breath practice, all of which are detailed below. Although they differ in breathing techniques and sequences, each of the them may be practiced in any comfortable seating (like the Easy Pose), standing (like the Mountain Pose), or lying (like the Relaxation Pose) position, and even seated on a chair (like the Seated Mountain Pose). Each of these breathing techniques can be practiced with ease and at any time of the day, but only on an empty (or half-empty) stomach.
 
Practicing pranayama (or Yogic Breath) brings harmony between the body, mind, and spirit - making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong. It is beneficial in treating stress related disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and in treatment of Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease. It also relieves symptoms of Asthma.
 
Bellows Breath (bhastrika pranayama)
Steps:
Breathe in deeply through your nostrils. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Breath out quickly through your nostrils. Feel your collar bones dropping, chest deflating, and abdomen shrinking as the lungs collapse. This process of exhaling should be much faster than the process of inhaling - almost like a rapid deflation.
Repeat the process. When correctly done, your chest will expand when you breathe in and deflate when you breathe out. Continue doing this for 5 minutes.
With practice, speed up your breathing. Beginners should always start slowly to avoid hyperventilating, but eventually it will be possible to turn this into a rapid breathing technique.
Shining Forehead Breath (kapalbhati pranayama)
Steps:
Inhale through your nostrils normally until your lungs are full. Keep your inhalation slow but unforced. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Exhale through both nostrils forcefully. This places the emphasis of the breath on the exhale rather than the (natural) inhale. Assist your exhalation by pulling in your stomach muscles to expel air. Exhaling should take much less time than it took to inhale.
"Forced" exhalation means that the contraction of your stomach muscles helps push the air out of your body. It does not mean that the exhalation should be uncomfortable for you in any way.
Repeat breaths for 15 minutes. You may take a minute's rest after every five minutes.
Alternate Nostril Breath (anulom vilom pranayama)
Steps:
Close your eyes. Focus your attention on your breathing.
Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Simply press the thumb against your nostril to block it.
Inhale slowly through the left nostril. Fill your lungs with air. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Remove your thumb from your right nostril. Keep your right hand by your nose and your lungs full of air.
Use your ring and middle finger to close your left nostril. Most people find it easier to continue using the same hand to block either nostril, but you're welcome to switch hands depending on which nostril you're blocking.
You can also switch if your arm gets tired.
Exhale slowly and completely with the right nostril. Feel the collar bones dropping, chest deflating, and abdomen shrinking as the lungs collapse. When you've finished exhaling, keep your left nostril closed.
Inhale through the right nostril. Fill your lungs.
Close the right nostril and open the left.
Breathe out slowly through the left nostril. This process is one round of Anulom Vilom Pranayam.
Continue for 15 minutes. You may take a minute's rest after every five minutes of exercise.
External Breath (bahya pranayama)
Steps:
Inhale deeply through your nose. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Exhale forcefully. Use your stomach and diaphragm to push the air from your body. "Forced" exhalation means that the contraction of your stomach muscles helps push the air out of your body. It does not mean that the exhalation should be uncomfortable for you in any way.
Touch your chin to your chest and suck in your stomach completely. The goal is to leave a hollow below your ribcage, making it look like the front muscle wall of your abdomen is pressed against the back. Hold this position - and your breath - for as long as is comfortable.
Lift your chin and breathe in slowly. Allow your lungs to completely fill with air.
Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Bee Breath (bhramari pranayama)
Steps:
Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing.
Place your thumbs in your ears, your index fingers above your eyebrows, and your remaining along the sides of your nose. Keep each pinky finger near a nostril.
Breath in deeply through the nose. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Use your pinkies to partially close each nostril. Keep your lungs filled.
Breathe out through the nose while humming. Note that the humming sound should originate in your throat, not as a result of your partially-blocked nostrils.
Repeat three times.
Chanting Breath (udgeeth pranayama)
Steps:
Breathe in deeply through the nose. First, feel the diaphragm move down, allowing the lungs to expand and forcing the abdomen out; then feel your chest expand with your collar bones rising last.
Exhale very slowly while saying "Om". Allow the syllable to draw out as slowly as you can. Make sure to keep the "O" long and the "M" short. ("Oooooom.")
Repeat 3 times.
 
What is the best time to practice Yogic Breath?
You can practice Yogic Breath, or pranayama at any time of the day. However, The best time is in the morning, around 45 minutes before eating breakfast.
 
Do I need to practice all forms of Yogic Breath?
No. You can practice one or more of the Yogic Breath forms according to your choice. While Shining Forehead Breath (kapalbhati pranayama) is most popular, it may be followed up with Alternate Nostril Breath (anulom vilom pranayama). After practicing these forms, you may optionally practice the other forms. If the environment offers thin air and lower oxygen level, practicing only Alternate Nostril Breath (anulom vilom pranayama) is a good choice.
 
What are the benefits of Yogic Breath?
The ancient sages of India realized some breathing techniques which are simple to practice and brought great relaxation to the body and mind. All forms of Yogic Breath, or pranayama, relaxes the body with optimum circulation of oxidized blood. Practice of Yogic Breath is also used to help with treatment of Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease. Practicing Alternate Nostril Breath (anulom vilom pranayama), Shining Forehead Breath (kapalbhati pranayama), or Bee Breath (bhramari pranayama) for 15 minutes daily helps to treat hearing problems.
 
Can I practice Yogic Breath during pregnancy?
Practicing Yogic Breath, or pranayama, during pregnancy is beneficial for both mother and child. However, do not try to do forced exhalation. You can practice Alternate Nostril Breath (anulom vilom pranayama), Bee Breath (bhramari pranayama), External Breath (bahya pranayama), and Bellows Breath (bhastrika pranayama) only.
 
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