Pranayama is the regulation of the prana (life force) and breath is the external manifestation of the prana (life force). By regulating the breath, we can gain mastery over the prana (life force).
– Swami Satchidananda
From the moment you are born, there is one constant companion through the highs and lows of life – your breath. As philosophical as it may sound, you can’t deny the fact that your breath has the last word and it could be the first victory over any situation. For instance, think of going for your first job interview or attending a competitive examination. When your heart is racing with anxiety, all you need to do is gather your thoughts and regulate your breathing to take control of the situation.
Constant awareness of your breath is itself a powerful tool to combat mental anxiety, fear, anger, and varied emotional as well as mental stress. And the best part is that this isn’t tough or complicated. Follow a few simple instructions on pranayama and you’ll be ready to practice it anytime, anywhere!
1. Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti)
Sama vritti is a basic technique that involves breathing through your nostrils. It can calm your mind in any situation. Practice this the next time you are annoyed or struggling to get some shut-eye.
- Breathe in slowly for 5 counts and breathe out for 5 counts.
- Mindfully practice 10 consecutive breath cycles and then step into your chores.
Who Can Do It
Just about anybody can do it – children, aged people, pregnant ladies, or diseased and chronically ill patients.
2. Three Path Breaths (Dirgha Pranayama)
The three path breathing technique involves focusing on various parts of the body. It is de-stressing, relaxing, and promotes blood circulation. It also increases your pain threshold, especially in case of chronic illnesses, where constant dull aches make daily tasks impossible to manage.
Continued stressful situations cause shallow breathing and increased heart rate, leading to exhaustion. This eventually harbors various illnesses in the body. Regular practice of dirgha pranayama counteracts this effect, helps the body maintain a normal heart rate, and prevents hormonal upheavals. This could even relieve stress-related disorders like a migraine, hypertension, and chronic illnesses.
- Sit erect and comfortably or in a reclined chair. Place your right palm, facing downward, on the chest and the left palm, facing downward, on the belly.
- Breathe in deeply through the nostril at a slow pace. As you inhale, first fill up and inflate the belly like a balloon; fill the lungs and chest, expanding the rib cage; and then the upper part of the chest up to the collarbone.
- Without holding the breath, exhale slowly, removing the air from your body in the reverse order – from the upper chest and down to the belly.
- Repeat the cycle for 10 counts.
You can practice dirgha pranayama every day and often as it has multiple benefits. It infuses the body with the vital force – oxygen – and also gets rid of the toxins.
Who Can Do It
Anybody other than children can practice this breathing exercise. This is because young kids might not be able to understand the technique correctly.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
The nadi shodana technique relieves anxiety, confusion, and helps in attaining a balanced state of mind. This technique requires a greater level of attention to focus on the inhalation/exhalation. It improves your quality of breath, activates the mind, improves your decisive power, and increases the clarity of thought. You could use this as a part of your regular practice before you start studying and/or even before leaving for an examination or for high, demanding professions.
- Sit erect and comfortably with your mouth closed.
- Hold the right thumb over the right nostril, gently blocking the passage. Softly and deeply, inhale through the left nostril to expand the chest.
- Then, gently block the left nostril with the ring finger, release the right nostril, and exhale.
- Inhale again through the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril to complete one cycle.
- Repeat this process for 10 cycles.
Who Can Do It
This technique is beneficial for children as it increases mental stamina. Pregnant women can practice this daily to get relief from fatigue, anxiety, and chest congestion. It is also recommended for patients with dementia, memory loss, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and other mental disorders.
4. Ocean Breath (Ujjayi)
Ujjayi breathing can be practiced during any physical activity, like walking, cycling, doing yoga, or even while working at your desk or in the kitchen. It is invigorating, refreshing, and warming for the body. The ujjayi breath promotes circulation and enhances body complexion. It soothes the agitated mind and helps you to heal from psychological and emotional trauma.
- Breathe in slow and deep through both nostrils.
- Exhale slowly through the nostrils by slightly constricting the throat and making the sound of the ocean – a dull hissing.
- Practice 10 such rhythmic breaths or until the end of your workout.
Who Can Do It
Youngsters, athletes, and gymnasts can practice the ocean breath for increased physical stamina. Children and elderly could use this to increase their physical and mental strength and to relieve lethargy. If you’re recuperating from a long-term illness, practice this to strengthen the digestive, respiratory, and nervous system.