How often do you really focus on your breath? So often, we can forget about being intentional about our breath and find ourselves taking only short, shallow breaths.
In yogic philosophy, the art of breathing is known as pranayama. Prana is life force energy and ayama refers to expansion, extension, regulation and control. What happens in the body is reflected in the mind, so by focussing and calming our breath, we can have a direct impact on our mental state. The more often you practice breath work, the more your body will get used to this calmer breath and it will be easier to regulate in those moments where you aren’t conscious of it.
I’d like to offer you my two favourite breath work techniques for you to try out, in the hopes that you can experience the effects of this practice and bring some calm to your day.
FULL YOGIC BREATH (aka 3-part breath or Durga Pranayama)
For this practice, we are going to bring the attention on each inhale and exhale to first the belly, then the ribs and finally to the chest. This is particularly good to do before bedtime, to help bring your awareness back to your body and calm the mind ready for a restful sleep.
- Calms the body and the mind
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves circulation
- Maintains blood pressure
- Utilises the full capacity of our lungs
- Can shift energy at a cellular level
- Either sitting up in easy pose, legs crossed and spine straight or laying on your back in savasana
- Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
- Exhale completely
- As you inhale, draw the breath down in to the belly and feel it rise and it fill with air
- Continue the inhale in to your ribs, feeling them expand out to the sides
- Finally bring the breath up to the chest, filling up the upper lungs
- Exhale chest first, then ribs, then belly
- Continue for 5-10 rounds, or as long as feels good
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING (aka Anuloma Viloma or Nadi Shodhana)
This is a really balancing breath with allows us to balance the Ida (lunar) and Pingala (solar) nadis (energy channels). In other words, this breath balances the masculine and the feminine energies and the left and right sides of the brain and body. This one can take a little bit of practice but once you get the pattern of inhale-swap-exhale-inhale-swap-exhale you’ll get in to a good rhythm in no time.
- Develops concentration
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Promotes calmness and peace
- Boosts the immune system
- Purifies the energy channels (nadis)
- Sit up in easy pose, legs crossed and spine straight (you can prop your hips up on a cushion for comfort)
- With the left hand, make jnana or chin mudra (Jnana; grounding. Index finger to thumb, palm facing down, Chin; receptive. Index finger to thumb, palm facing up) rest hand on left knee.
- With the right hand, make pranayama mudra; bring index and ring finger to the third eye, thumb to right nostril and ring finger to left nostril
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb
- Inhale through the left nostril
- Close the left nostril with the ring finger
- Open the right nostril
- Exhale out the right nostril
- Inhale through the right nostril
- Close the right nostril
- Open the left nostril
- Exhale out the left nostril
This is one round, repeat this for 5-10 rounds. For a longer, more nourishing and meditative practice continue for 20 minutes.
Try one or both of these practices each day for a week, and notice the benefits to your stress levels, focus and sleep.
Good luck and happy breathing!
Let me know your thoughts!