For many of us, when it comes to improving health we immediately start to review our diet and exercise habits which is a great place to start. However, there is another tool we have at our disposal that can have a significant impact on our wellbeing and stress levels and it does not require an expensive gym membership to use. This tool is your own breath and it can be used to effectively bring a calmer state of being at any time in any situation.
The practice of “Pranayma” (Sanskrit for extension of life force) has been used for thousands of years by Yogis to help bring the body and mind to a place of peace and harmony. So what is it?
Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath through breath exercises. It is used to help clear physical and emotional obstacles in the body to ensure our breath, the most important thing for life, flows freely through the body.
The benefits of more controlled breathing are widely documented and include:
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Lower/stabilized blood pressure
- Increased energy levels
- Muscle relaxation
- Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm
Here we will share with you three Pranayama exercises you can use anywhere!
Before you being any Pranayama exercise sit comfortably. If a cross legged pose is suitable for you, use this. If not, use any position that is comfortable and allows the spine to be as straight as possible and the mind alert. Use a wall or cushions as a support if needed.
Close your eyes and take a few deep calm breaths to centre yourself. When you feel ready begin, you can begin your pranayama.
Once you feel centred move to lay prone on the floor, stretch your legs back, top of the feet on the floor. As you inhale lift the chest slightly up keeping your pubic bone on the ground and elbows bend. Doing this pose dynamically for 4-5 times to begin increasing flexibility at the spine.
- Close the eyes and take a few deep calm breaths.
- Breath in through the nose, and as you exhale open the mouth to exhale. You will hear that gentle sound at the back of the throat. Much like the sound of the ocean.
- Breathe in again and this time as you exhale close the mouth and make that same action at the back of the throat as you exhale.
- Breathe in again and now make the same sound both on inhalation and exhalation through the nose.
- You will hear the breath and feel a gentle vibration at the back of the throat.
- Place the right hand over the face with the second and third fingers together over the eyebrow centre.
- Use the right nostril to block off the right nostril and begin inhaling through the left side.
- Block off the left Nostril with the fourth finger and open the right to exhale.
- Inhale through the right side.
- Close the right nostril and open the left to exhale.
- Repeat for 2-3 minutes changing nostrils after each inhalation.
- Focus on the breath being slow and relaxed.
- Close the eyes.
- Begin inhaling through the nose for the count of 4.
- At the top of the fourth breath, hold the breath for the count of 2.
- Exhale for the count of 4.
- Repeat this cycle for 3 minutes.
- Once you feel comfortable with this rhythm, you can add extra counts to the breath. Inhale for 6 hold for 3 and exhale for 6.
A regular daily practice of pranayama is one of the best tools for improving your health and wellbeing. Performing one of these breath techniques twice daily for only three to five minutes will help bring your mind and body into balance.
‘Healing is every breath’ - Thich Nhat Hanh
Do not practice pranayama on a full stomach
If you are suffering from a breath related problem such as asthma, emphysema, shortness of breath etc. talk to your physician and get a clearance before embarking on breathing exercises.