What is pranayama?
When people think of yoga, they think of just the physical practice, or asana. There isn’t anything wrong with this idea, as it is a common misconception. In reality, yoga is a merge of the body, (physical), mind (mental) and breath (spiritual).
In this post I am going to go in-depth on breath, or ‘pranayama’ (which is the Sanskrit name for breath). Prana means energy or life force and Yama meaning to free or control. Which is confusing to think of as you would think that ‘free’ and ‘control’ have two very different meanings, but if you think about it, you can free your breath from any restrictions and you can control your breath to allow it to become free. All up, pranayama means too free energy, coming in and out.
By seeing beyond our own needs, we automatically open to the energy flow beyond ourselves.
Let me ask you a few questions:
- How many times our of your day do you think about your breath?
- Do you observe your breath when you are feeling stressed or anxious?
- When you take 6 deep breaths right now through your nose, how much more calm do you feel? Honestly, try this.
It is said that your breath is the connection between a higher consciousness and yourself. So once we learn how to free the breath, we can eventually find a state of higher consciousness. Which leads to feelings of pure happiness and joy.
From personal experience, I have had numerous times where I have felt stressed, anxious and disconnected, but as soon as I found my breath, as in… Consciously thinking about my deep slow inhales and exhales, that stress has dissipated. Its a beautiful thing that I want everyone to be able to have knowledge about. In saying that, in the next half of the blog, I have written about and explained a couple of my favourite pranayama practices.
Completely bind your attention to the awareness of breath.
Remembering that these all can be used anytime, but make sure that you find a quiet place with no distractions to really receive all the benefits. When we pair the breath with meditation, Magic happens.
Nadi shodhana- Alternate nostril breathing
Holding your index and middle finger between your eyebrows, or third eye. With your thumb resting on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left. Blocking your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left. Then block left and exhale fully through right and inhale through right again. Then block right and exhale through left. Continue this for 3-15 minutes or as long as you need to feel relaxed.
This breath is all about balancing you masculine and feminine sides and centring into your main Nadi channel. Its also a great way to focus on something other than your thoughts.
This pranayama is where you breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose. Lightly bring the teeth together, open the lips to expose the teeth. Then breathe through the teeth and over the tongue cooling the breath. Exhale through the nose. Do this 10 times, with long slow breaths. As said, this is a cooling breath. So when you are feeling flustered, angry, jealous etc, where there is a lot of built up heat in the body, this is the perfect pranayama.
As the air is directed through the nose, it stimulates the Nasal Nervous System which seems to have an additional calming affect on the entire Nervous System, and it is thought to assist the stimulation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, for maintenance and rejuvenation of the body.
Bring your index and middle finger to your eyes, thumbs covering your ears/tragus, and your last two fingers covering your mouth. The reason for this is that it completely switches off all your other senses so that you can focus on the vibration that your hum makes.
Once you have made these coverings, take a deep breath in through the nose, and keeping everything else closed, start to make a humming noise. This is a hard one to explain, but once you have done it, you will feel such a deep vibration in your head. An intense energy. Freeing the energy right? This pranayama is meant to be incredibly calming. To really reap the rewards, try not to worry so much on what you look and sound like, just focus on how you feel.
When we breathe, actually it is the environment. The atmosphere that breathes us.