Pranayama Breathing - Lung Power

Pranayama Breathing - Lung Power

Posted on February 21 2024, By: Perry Galanopoulos

Pranayama is the practice of breath work and one of the eight limbs of yoga. There is a traditional claim that time is measured by our breath. Thus, if we can slow our breathing, we can slow our aging. Many of use do not breath fully to begin with, and we begin to lose our lung capacity after the age of 30. Pranayama is used to bring balance and awareness, expand lung capacity, energize the body, relax the mind, and become more focused. Most pranayama practices are pretty simple and the results are pretty immediate. Below will cover some basic techniques and how to practice at home:

* Please consult with your doctor before taking on pranayama practices, especially if you are pregnant, have heart conditions or suffer from high blood pressure.

Ideally pranayama should be practiced on an empty stomach when we wake up, and situationally (before or after yoga for example). Sit in a comfortable position with your spine tall and knees lowers than hips.   

 

Ujjayi Breath - Ocean Breath

Ujjayi the basic and most fundamental breath that is used in asana (yoga) practice when poses are held, but can be used anytime. It slows down and lengthens the breath, calming the nervous system, oxygenating the body and focusing the mind. It is practiced by drawing breath in and out through the nose, while slightly constricting the opening of the throat where air passes through the glottis. Though the air enters and exits through the nose, the focus and sensation is at the throat. It is the friction of air through the glottis (in the throat) that produces an ocean wave-like sound.

Deerga Swasa - Expanding Your Lungs

Deerga Swasa is three part breathing that helps to create space in your lungs. It is very calming to the mind, oxygenates and detoxifies the body. 

Bring awareness to your breath, and breathe through the nostrils, keeping the breath soft and deep. Begin by exhaling completely. Step 1 is to inhale 1/3 of your lung capacity at the belly as if you were filling a jar.  Step 2 is to inhale 1/3 into your lower chest and ribcage. Step 3 is to inhale into the upper chest. Pause briefly and then exhale in reverse order: upper chest, lower chest and then belly. Try to pause in-between steps, and you might find it helpful to place a hand over the area that is being inhaled and exhaled. Practice slowly with lots of awareness on every part of the breathing process.

Nadi Shodhana - Balancing Breath

Sometimes known as alternate nostril breathing, Nadi shodhana is a powerful tool to balance emotions, the mind and energies in the body.  There are many stages to this practice, I'll provide a foundational overview. Begin by releasing the thumb, pinky and ring fingers (middle and pointer are tucked). You will use your thumb and ring fingers to close one nostril at a time (pictured above).

  • Inhale through the left nostril for a count of six.
  • Exhale through the right nostril for a count of six.
  • Inhale through the right nostril for a count of six.
  • Exhale through the left nostril for a count of six.

This completes one full round, you should begin with five rounds. 

Advanced practitioners will use different ratios and breath retention, but this should be done with a teacher. A common ratio is 2:8:4 - inhale for 2 seconds, hold for 8 seconds and then exhale for 4 seconds. You should never struggle or be out of breath, adjust as need to experience a calming practice. 

 

When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.

- Hatha Yoga Pradipika

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