Pranayama is the ancient Yogic practice of breath control. “Pranayama” means to extend or regulate life force.
Pranayama breathing exercises manipulate prana (life force in Ayurveda) to recharge energy, relieve stress, and boost overall health.
Pranayama is highly underutilized in the Western world even though it can lead to dramatic improvements in vitality.
Pranayama supports the health of the lungs and respiratory system. It brings energizing oxygen to all of the body’s cells.
A study published in the International Journal of Yoga reveals pranayama improves breathing in people with bronchial asthma.
It strengthens and tones the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. In fact, pranayama is one of the easiest techniques available to build core strength.
Pranayama breaks up digestive blockages that contribute to low energy and constipation. It accelerates weight loss, increases lymph flow, and releases fatigue-causing toxins.
Yogic practitioners regularly use pranayama to regulate emotions and enhance mental energy for meditation.
Versions of the following techniques are used by Yogis everywhere. If you’re new to pranayama, you may need to modify or cut your practice short while you build up strength.
Note: If you are pregnant or have a serious health issue, avoid pranayama unless you’re working with a trained professional.
This exercise charges the nervous system and improves energyand libido.
Sit comfortably with your spine straight, hands on your knees, and your legs crossed.
Inhale and exhale vigorously through your nose, drawing breath from your abdomen. If you do it properly, your belly should rise and fall rapidly.
This is a great starter pranayama. It works well for energy first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, or before a workout. Try it for 45-60 seconds for the best results.
Skull Shining Breath is one of the most powerful pranayamas to promote detoxification. Kapal Bhati means “the shining forehead.”
It’s believed to detoxify all the body systems, creating a glowing forehead, an outward sign of vibrant health. Skull Shining Breath helps release negative emotions and fights sluggishness.
Sit comfortably with your spine straight and legs crossed. Rest your hands on your lower belly.
Calmly breathe in through your nose.Exhale forcefully through your nose, pulling your abdomen back towards your spine.
Take one breath every few seconds. Focus on the exhalation and contraction of your abdomen. Naturally relax your abdomen when you inhale. Do this technique for 45-60 seconds for the best results.
Bhastrika increases Prana, or vital energy, and blood flow throughout the body. It’s an invigorating technique that can stimulate a slight sweat.
I like the Bhastrika technique from Gigi Yogini on Mind Body Green.
Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Inhale through your nose, raising your arms above your head with your hands outstretched.
Exhale through your mouth, dropping your elbows to the sides of your ribcage. End each breath with a “hah.”
Start with 10 inhalations and exhalations. Work up to a few minutes or whatever feels comfortable.
Note: Bhastrika is best done on an empty stomach.
Our emotions affect how we breathe. Yogi practitioners say that for each emotion there is a corresponding breath rhythm.
Pranayama uses breath control to inspire different emotional states. Just 60 seconds of breath work a day can release negativity, and encourage a more peaceful state of mind.
Try pranayama exercises along with healing mantras, guided imagery, and positive thinking to reset your day if you’re feeling anxious, stuck in a rut, or angry. You will be amazed by the changes created by mindful breath work.
Your life starts and ends with your breath. Take a moment to focus on your breathing.
Breathing too shallow or too deep creates energetic imbalances, worsens anxiety, impairs digestion, and hinders detoxification. Breathe calmly from your diaphragm through your nose.
Try pranayama to revitalize your mind and body. Yogi practitioners share that pranayama can help you achieve higher levels of consciousness and even change your life.