The How’s and Why’s on Starting Yogic Breathing

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Pranayama, or the “controlled intake and outflow of breath in a firmly established posture,” helps one to cultivate a feeling of ease and bliss. It is an essential part of a yoga practice and also necessary for bringing one’s mind to a calm center point in daily life.

5 Vritti

Breathe normally, observing the inflow and outflow of the breath. After a few breaths, begin to count as you inhale and exhale, still simply breathing normally and smoothly. After doing this for a few breaths, begin to inhale for 3 to 5 counts, pause, and then exhale for 3 to five counts. Continue to do this for as long as feels comfortable to you. As you do this more regularly, begin to extend the duration of the breath on both the inhale and exhale as feels right to do so. Vitti pranayama is a type of breathing that allows for regulation of the duration of the inhalations and exhalations of breath. Keeping the focus on the timing of the breath is meditative and helps to relax the mind while also uniting the will of the mind with the functions of the body.

4 Chandrabeda

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm, Bring your right hand to the face and block the right nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril. Close both nostrils, hold the breath, and then release the breath through the right nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat as many cycles as feels comfortable to up to thirty minutes, The opposite of Suryabeda breathing, this breath is calming and centering. This is a particularly excellent breath for relaxation before sleep, as well as before meetings, conferences, or any other even that may cause one anxiety.

3 Surya-bheda

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm, bring your left hand to the face and block the left nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril. Close both nostrils, hold the breath, and then release the breath through the left nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat as many cycles as feels comfortable to up to thirty minutes. Said to increase vitality, this breathing technique works by receiving life force energy through the right nostril.

2 Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire)

Begin with Ujjayi breathing until feeling the rhythm. After an exhalation, draw in your breath halfway and then repeatedly blast it out through your nose, allowing the inhalation to be passive in response to the exhalation. Do 25 of these blasts of breath, and then fill your lungs, hold for a moment, and release the breath in a relaxed fashion. Start with one or two rounds, and build up to several minutes as you continue to integrate this breathing technique into your practice. The Breath of Fire is known for its ability to energize the entire body by oxygenating the blood and creating a feeling of exhilaration.

1 Ujjayi

Breath through your nose, slightly narrowing your throat at the epiglottis – this means narrowing the throat enough to hear a sound, This sound can sound like the wind in the trees, the ocean, or as some Western yogis think, Darth Vader. Ujjayi is the most basic of pranayama practices. Start with and become comfortable with Ujjayi before going to any other breathing techniques. By practicing this kind of breathing you will be able to connect to and focus one your breath, calm your mind with the peaceful sound, and flow more intricately with your physical yoga practice.

Breath is a fascinating thing. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it until we gasp for air after holding it during a scary movie or intense moment. By bringing awareness to the breath we are reconnecting to our bodies on a fundamental level, while providing a moment of pause to the flurry within from the day’s events. Remember to focus on your breath whenever you can, and practice these techniques for further connection to the stillness within.