The idea of writing about something as natural as our breathing may seem irrelevant. Who needs to read a blog article to know how to breathe? However, being aware of our breathing becomes fundamental to a more thoughtful life. Through the exercise of observation of breathing, you have probably concluded that it would be somewhat irregular. It can be a shorter and more agitated breath, followed by a shorter deep one, and in most cases it may not be possible to distinguish the location of breathing in the body. Along these lines, we can look at our breath as we look at life itself, so often irregular and disorderly. However, it is always possible to adapt and modulate the way we face life and, in this case, how we breathe.
Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques designed to help a Yoga practitioner to master and manage the body’s energy. The word Pranayama, from Sanskrit, means “expansion of the life force”. Prana is the vital energy that surrounds us, Ayama means expansion. For the Yoga practitioner, breathing appears as an extension of Prana as it moves through the body. Pranayama is the balance of energy both inside and outside of the body. Greater awareness of breathing provides quality for the practice of postures (asanas).
The body usually accumulates physical tensions and dysfunctional beliefs that prevent outside energy to enter the body. Breathing techniques help to release these limitations and calm the nervous system. This is the reason why we may feel that something has changed after a Yoga class.
Two of the most fundamental techniques will be briefly described, Ujjayi Pranayama and Nadi Shodana, whose aim will be to increase the internal energy of the body, thus developing general well-being. Before starting your Pranayamas, you should choose an appropriate location and feel comfortable with your legs crossed.
Also referred to as “breathing the sound of the sea”, Ujjayi Pranayama is a simple breathing technique that aims to calm our nervous system:
- You can do it while sitting down or while exercising.
- Put the tip of your tongue towards the palate, behind your teeth.
- Close your lips and breathe naturally through your nose. Given the position of the tongue the throat will be closed, thus allowing the existence of a sound that reminds us of the sea, as our breath travels throughout the body.
Also known as the “alternating breathing”, Nadi Shodhana allows us greater focus and emotional balance. For this second Pranayama it is necessary that our right hand is in Vishnu Mudra. Mudras are gestures that help us redirect energy:
- Place the middle and index fingers towards the center of the hand, keeping the remaining fingers straight.
- With your eyes closed, cover the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
- Release the right nostril and exhale.
Inhale with the same nostril and keep doing the same alternating exercise.
In order to achieve a greater focus on the techniques, a good option is to do it through counts: inhale in 4 seconds, retain the air in 4 seconds, and exhale twice as long. It is very important not to forget the verticality of your back. The Pranayamas should last for at least 3 minutes. When you are finished, keep your eyes closed and resume your natural breathing for a few moments.