Pranayama and Dealing with Tattoo Pain

     Random cool tattooed yogi [1]

First world problems, I know. What with all the world’s best doctors and scientists hard at work developing links between yoga and its effectiveness for use in treatments of REAL pathologies, it’s granted that more inspired topics are to be regulated to the backburner, and the scientific community at large can surely be forgiven for overlooking this potentially very fruitful area of research.

But such is. And we can’t all be engaged in solving life’s big problems, need some of us to engage in the little ones as well. Like ya know, dealing with tattoo pains. We all do our own part, eh?

 

Pranayama

So a quick recap on pranayama. That’s the thing you do (or try to do) during your weekly yoga classes right;

Controlled breath in. Controlled breath out. Hold for 6 counts. In… out… 

In…. out….

Stretch out your breaths, until the thoughts ease off from your mind. Your heart slows. Your muscles relax. Time unwinds, consciousness eases, softens and fades off into the background.

Going to go catch some samadhi’s. [2]

In yogic practice, breath represents (or ontologically supervenes on) prana (lifeforce). Regulation of the breath entails regulation of your lifeforce. When I stretch out my breathing, I draw out my life force. As I harmonize my breathing, I clear up my vital energies, and prepare my mind-body to transition into the next stage of heightened consciousness.

Pranayama brings about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses and an inward turn of consciousness). Pratyahara further facilitates progression towards dharana, dhyana, and the superconscious samadhi. 

Now, I’d love as much as anyone to reach this samadhic enlightenment. But a dude’s still gotta navigate all the toil and toil and tribulations of samsara, ya know? Eventual self-actualization defo stays in the books, but I’ve a scheduled needling appointment soon, and I’d really like all the help I can get for that next marathon session coming up.

 

Pranayama and Pain Management

I think anyone who has gone for one of those hardcore Yin Yoga classes can immediately relate to the pain-management benefits of controlled breathing during a long drawn out and particularly excruciating frog, lizard or king pigeon pose. Fold deeper, keep breathing. Push deeper on each exhalation, breath into those knots and tight areas. Fold deeper. A bit more. A bit more And then the insane bastard actually comes over and pushes you balls deep into the stretch, into that white abyss of pain. Gotta love those Yin classes.

Don’t let that smile fool you. This here is the true face of pain. [3]

Going to geek out a little bit here on the physio-neurological basis for the efficacy of pranayama on pain management. For those not entirely turned on by latin gobbledygook, skip straight ahead to the next pretty picture below.

For the rest of you intellectual types; regulated breathing leverages the bidirectional affect between (para-)/sympathetic state activation and directive electric signals originating from the central nervous system (“CNS”). Conscious activation of segments of the overall (para-)/sympathetic response (i.e. the slow, deep breathing part of an overall relaxed state) in turn triggers the unconscious sensory neurons transmitting parasympathetic activation back up the CNS into the brain, who then plays catch up by transmitting further motor signals down the spine out the rest of your peripheral nervous system. Upregulation of the parasympathetic (relaxed muscles, slow breathing, steady heartbeat) state opposes the rival sympathetic state activation (fight or flight; erratic heartbeats, cold sweats, jitters, pain sensitivity, tensed up muscles). By a parallel and identical process, similar activation towards the sympathetic state can be achieved through conscious exercise of rapid forceful breathing (e.g. kapalbhati), which transmits back up to the CNS, back down to the sympathetic nervous system as so.

I picked most of this from wikipedia by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

Now there’s a good bit of research attempting to close the final leg from (para-)/sympathetic state activation and pain sensitivity. The interface between subjective mental experiences (the feeling of pain) and neuro-physiological body states has always been a bit tricky to bridge. Observed behavioral responses and subjective reporting of pain would to be sure show some difference when obtained from a sympathetically activated individual or a para-sympathetically inclined one. It’s one thing to observe behavioral responses, and another to conclude that the pain was experienced mentally, internally as more painful; am I just overreacting, or am I really feeling more pain? 

Nevertheless, I’ll just throw out here the bits we wanted to hear; the experimental controlled trigger of pain and its association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. [4] Pranayama and its promising use in patients with pain related pathologies. [5]

Tattoo Pain Chart [6]

But anywho, some personal n=1 experience has informed me that that long, deep breathing REALLY helps during the particularly wee sensitive bits in the ink session; Nice long slow breaths in the green. Some REALLY HEAVY DEEP BREATHS as we move on to the red. Take a 5 minute breather to help clear your mind, then that existential dread again and that moment of panic right as the needle homes into your skin…!!!!!!!…!!…haaaaaa…… Oohh yer fluffin beautie.

Granted there are probably even more niche areas for controlled breath applications out there. Like getting a covid/flu jab. Like when going for a foot massage. Or going to the dentist. Don’t know anything about those, I’m trying to write for the everyman here.

Calm mind through long slow breaths. Reversal of cause and effect. A real wonder of science, that pranayama.

 

Takeaways

– Slow, controlled breathing makes me less of a fidgety beech during tattoo sessions. 

– There’s a bit of science backing the idea that pranayama can help with pain (or at least its management)

– Bit of pranayama would probably help with my spiritual side too, enlightenment and all.

 

Will end off with a bit of #inkspiration, because dayum, some of these pins look mighty fine. 

 

One day, I too will be able to be like that. [7]

 

[1]: https://thetattooedbuddha.com/2016/09/04/the-tattooed-yoga-project-building-community-through-art/ 

[2]: https://www.indiadivine.org/prana-and-pranayama/ 

[3]: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-to-do-frog-pose

[4]: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Jacob Tindle; Prasanna Tadi.[2020]

[5]: Yoga: Can It Be Integrated with Treatment of Neuropathic Pain, Telles S. · Sayal N. · Nacht C. · Chopra A. · Patel K. · Wnuk A. · Dalvi P. · Bhatia K. · Miranpuri G. · Anand A. [2017]

[6]: https://www.facebook.com/rxtattoomd/posts/tattoo-pain-chart/453490595301962/ 

[7]: https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1617350

 

How pranayama is helping COVID-19 sufferers

Pranayama is the practice of breath regulation. The benefits of a regular pranayama practice have long been recognized within the yoga community, and with the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, pranayama is increasingly being discussed as a vital tool for treating ailments brought on by the novel coronavirus.   

The mysteries of ‘Long COVID’

While COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, the virus has been found to potentially affect long-term nearly all organ systems and the nervous system.  A study published by the UK Office for National Statistics found that roughly one out of seven people who tested positive for COVID-19 experienced symptoms for a period lasting longer than 12 weeks.

Common symptoms in long COVID sufferers include fatigue and shortness of breath, but some also report heart palpitations –a sign that the body’s “autonomic nervous system” is out of balance. This is the body’s control system that critically regulates heart and breathing rate and triggers the “fight-or-flight response” when being confronted with a perceived threat. Carrying out seemingly mundane tasks –like loading the washing machine or sitting up in bed –have been reported as setting heart rates racing.

Prescribing Breath-work

An article published by The Atlantic earlier this year documents the observations and success of a team of researchers and doctors at Mount Sinai in the U.S. with prescribing breath-work for treating these symptoms. Notably, in formulating their course of treatment, the team remarked –

“long-COVID patients were breathing shallowly through their mouths and into their upper chest. By contrast, a proper breath happens in the nose and goes deep into the diaphragm; it stimulates the vagus nerve along the way, helping regulate heart rate and the nervous system.” 

This prompted the realization that in treating long-COVID patients –

the diaphragm and the nervous system had to be coached back to normal function before further reconditioning could start.”

Within just a week of starting patients on the breath-work course, all patients within the program were reporting positive improvement.

As discussed in the article, the Mount Sinai team’s theories about why the breath-work ultimately was so helpful touches upon many of the widely-discussed benefits of pranayama. In particular, they noted  –

  1. Breath-work allows patients to consciously control their heart rate;
  2. In helping to regulate stress, breath-work may benefit the immune system;
  3. Proper breathing is crucial to the lymphatic system, which plays a key role in eliminating toxins and waste.

Considering for example the pranayama practice of Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing), it is documented as improving lung function, increasing oxygen saturation levels, reducing sympathetic activity and correspondingly stress and anxiety.

While we all hope not to be in the situation where we must use breath-work for rehabilitation from an illness, these findings are a positive reminder of the power of controlling our breath and its healing effects on the body.

Anulom Vilom Pranayama

Pranayama – the cessation of breathing and expansion of prana.

Prana means “vital life force” and Ayama means “to extend or draw out”. Together, Pranayama means breath control.

Before hearing of this term pranayama, I’ve never given extra thoughts as to why yoga teachers tell students to take deep breaths and throughout the class, give reminders to “breathe”. I knew breathing regulates our heart rate, making the movements from pose to pose more manageable. Until recently, when I was introduced to the different types of pranayama techniques that I was wowed by it.

 

So, what exactly is pranayama? It involves techniques controlling our breaths in various ways.

According to Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, sutra 2.50:

bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desha kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah dirgha sukshmah

This translates to “that pranayama has three aspects of external or outward flow (exhalation), internal or inward flow (inhalation), and the third, which is the absence of both during the transition between them, and is known as fixedness, retention, or suspension. These are regulated by place, time, and number, with breath becoming slow and subtle.”.

 

The three aspects of breath are:

  1. Exhalation: Training the exhalation is removing the jerkiness, allowing the flow to be slow and deep, as well as diaphragmatic.
  2. Inhalation: Training the exhalation also means eliminating jerkiness, breathing slowly, and using the diaphragm.
  3. Transition: Between exhalation and inhalation, and between inhalation and exhalation there is a transition, which is experienced as suspension, retention, or cessation, etc. The training of the transition is to make it very smooth as if there were no pause at all.

 

One of the breathing techniques that I would like to talk about is Anulom Vilom – Alternate Nostril Breathing.

What attracted me to this pranayama is that it improves digestion. I am someone with poor digestion and irregular bowel movements. When I first tried Anulom Vilom, just 5 minutes in and I felt the need to go to the toilet! How quick is the effect of it? Given the stressful lifestyle and the amount of food some of us take due to convenience, this is one pranayma that I think is highly suitable!

Some other benefits of Anulom Vilom are:

  • Boosts respiratory system
  • Reduces stress
  • Helps in keeping mental disorders at bay
  • Improves concentration
  • Boosts and improves digestion

  

The steps to practice Anulom Vilom:

  1. Sit in a cross-legged or meditating position, making sure the spine and head are straight.
  2. Close eyes and relax for a few minutes and when relaxed and ready, to cool the body, take your right thumb and place it on the right nostril (refer to the left image below)
  3. Press the right thumb with a slight force so that airflow through the right nostril is temporarily stopped. And take a deep breath from the left nostril.
  4. Then release the thumb, place your ring and pinky finger on the left nostril, and release the breath through the right nostrils (refer to the right image below)
  5. Making sure breath is slow and ratio for inhalation and exhalation to be 1:1 and graduation work up to 1:2

*to heat up the body, take your ring and pinky finger and place it on the left nostril, breathe in through the right nostril, then release the fingers and place the right thumb on the right nostril and release the breath through the left nostril.

Picture source: https://www.myupchar.com/en/yoga/pranayama/anulom-vilom-pranayam-yoga-steps-benefits-in-hindi

Have fun with this! Hope you’ll experience the same effect I had!

The Science of Pranayama

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the process by which the prana (or breath) is controlled or regulated. It comes from 2 Sanskrit words:

“prana” which means life energy and

“Ayama” which means extend/draw out. Some scripts also mention that it comes from the word “Yama” which means control.

 

I’d like to expand on prana a little bit more. The term prana is very interesting because many of us may misunderstood the action as “breathing in air”. But that is not the case, According to The Science of Pranayama (written by SriSwami Sivananda), prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe. It exist in everything that moves or works or has life, including in all men, literally it is everywhere around us. It is not atmospheric air that we breathe in, but all the energy that exist around us. 

So when you see how some persons are more successful in life, more influential and fascinating than others. It is all due to the power of this prana. 

 

Why practice Pranayama?

 Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body by blowing his lungs.

 

According to the Akhand Sutra (written by Dr.Shiv Bhushan Sharma): “… It means that the practice of Pranayamah prepares the mind for the practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The Body-breath-mind forms the three sides of a single functional triangle…” The aim is for you to reach antaratma sadhana, or your innermost quest of Dharana concentration, Dhyana meditation and ultimately Samadhi enlightment.

Before I summarise the main points of Pranayama’s benefits, I would like to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIfwbEvXtwo

For me, what was the most interesting part of the video and perhaps the most relatable to science is this:

“…. So yogic breathing stimulates salivary secretion. And the saliva, the compounds or the principles in the saliva say nerve growth factor or several other factors in the saliva can be:

  • transported to the central nervous system through specific transport mechanisms
  • Or it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and available throughout the body
  • Or it can just stay there in the oral cavity to help us fight germs…..”

So in relations, Pranayama allows you to:

– utilise consciously for self-development

– heal many incurable diseases in your system

– heal others and

– for other various useful purposes.

An excerpt from The Science of Pranayama (written by SriSwami Sivananda): “… It is through Pranayama that you can control your circumstances and character and can consciously harmonise the individual life with the cosmic life..”

The guiding principle behind Pranayama is that we all hold physical or emotional blocks in our bodies which inhibit the flow of breath and of prana – life energy. This can leave us feeling unwell and “stuck” or blocked physically and emotionally. By practising Pranayama (and asana) we are clearing these blocks so breath and prana can flow freely, our bodies can then function properly and our minds can become calmer and clearer.

 

So what is the basic steps of Pranayama?

There are many types of Pranayamas. Some says there are 7, some says 9, and some say 12. Regardless, according to the Yoga Sutra, Pranayama is the regulating of the breath in three steps.

  1. Regulating the exhalation (rechaka)
  2. Regulating the inhalation (puraka)
  3. Regulating retention of the breath (khumbaka)

The regulation of the breath can be measured by place, time, and number. The goal of regulating the breath is for the breath to become long and fine.

As you progress in your own pranayama, you can do your different types such as:

  • Ujjayi Breath
  • alternate nostril breathing (nadishodhana)
  • and female honeybee humming breath (bhramari)

I’d like to end off this post with an Eastern philosophy saying: ‘Mind is a monkey. It’s not a normal monkey. It’s a drunken monkey, stung by a scorpion!’

It’s simply means that our mind is something hard to manage!

But as the video has so clearly stated: “… there is an easy way. Mind cannot travel on its own. Mind needs a vehicle. Mind is using a horse. That horse is your breathing. So if you want to control the mind, the rider, you have to control the vehicle, the horse – the breathing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pranayama Sama Vritti

Sama Vritti Pranayama

The meaning of pranayama : ‘Pranayama’ literally means ‘to expand prana’ (vital force). In the 49th Sutra of Sadhanapada of Patanjala Yogasutra, the great Rishi Patanjali has defined Pranayama as a process in which respiration is interrupted and Prana, that is, the vital force is controlled and regulated. According to some, Prana mean air. But this is a wrong and misleading interpretation. Prana means something more than air. Prana, in  fact, is the vital power which is the force motivating every element of the earth and which is the origin of the force of thought. There is a deep affinity between Prana and mental force, between mental force and intellect, between intellect and soul, and between soul and God. Thus, the purpose of Pranayama is to inspire, motivate, regulate and balance the vital force (Prana) pervading in the body. This is the reason why Pranayama is considered one of the efficacious means of attaining Yoga.

The importance of Pranayama: Much importance has been attached to Pranayama in Yogashastras. According to Vyasabhashya, there is no ‘tapa’ (penance), greater than Pranayama. It cleanses the body and knowledge is manifested. Manu says, ‘Just as gold and other metals melted in fire become so pure so also the sense organs of the body get rid of impurities by Pranayama.’ Pranayama is the fourth and very important stage of Ashtanga Yoga shown by Patanjali. Yoga without Pranayama is not Yoga at all. That is why Pranayama is called the soul of Yoga. Bathing is necessary for purifying the body. Similarly, Pranayama is essential for purifying the mind.

What is Sama Vritti Pranayama?

Sama Vritti is one of the basic breathing techniques in yoga and this kind of breathing helps calm your autonomic nervous system. It means equal breath or box breathing. Sama mean “equal” and vritti mean “mental fluctuations’’. It is a ratio breathing technique that uses a set length of equal inhalations, exhalations and breath retentions.

Simple steps to start the breath cycle:

  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the breath in for a count of 4
  • Exhale for a count of 4

 Benefits of Pranayama

  • It helps strengthen the muscles used in breathing, increases the lung capacity, improve circulation in the body and stimulate the inner organs. Also, help exhaling excess carbon dioxide can prevent us from getting “Hypercapnia”.
  • Sending more oxygen to the brain helps to improve mental clarity, focus, concentration.
  • It helps let go of negative thoughts and emotions. By focusing on our breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the fight OR flight response and producing a sense of calmness.
  • Focusing on the breath draws our attention inwards, which increases our inner peace and stillness making it easier to concentrate and meditate.

I would like to share a life experience, my friend and I was practising Sama Vritti. She shared that after the 4th cycle, she could smell garlic as she exhale and subsequently it get stronger. Conclusion, we should try to avoid rajasic foods that over stimulate the body and mind.

 

 

Breathe your way to healthier looking skin & stress relieving life

What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is an ancient practice of controlling your breath.

Controling the duration, timing, and frequency of every breath and hold.

In Sanskrit, Prana = life energy, Yama = control

What is Anulom Vilom?

Anulom Vilom is a specific type of Pranayama/controlled breathing in yoga practice.
Inhale with one nostril closed, change side by closing the first nostril and exhale from the other nostril.
This process is reversed and repeated.

Anulom Vilom physical and mental health benefits

  • Mood lifting
  • Helps to focus
  • Relieve stress & anxiety
  • Maintain heart health, lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves sinus
  • Removes blockages present in your nostrils thus minimises snoring
  • Improves immune system, keeping the cough and cold at bay
  • Removes toxins from your body
  • Good for skin
  • Helps with muscles aches

Most people can practice Anulom Vilom safely as there is no known side effects,
however do stop should you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable.

 

Why Anulom Vilom and not other pranayama?

I choose Anulom Vilom and integrate in my practice because it is easy, no need of holding of breath and retention.
You can do it anywhere as long as you can sit in a comfortable sitting position.
Personally, I have some sinus issues and I have seen some improvement after doing 5 mins for about a week. I find myself calmer and less stress and anxious at work.
I also noticed that my skin also look less dull!

How to practice Anulom Vilom?

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, eyes closed, left hand resting on your knee.
  2. Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
  3. Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale slowly and steadily with your left nostrils till your lungs are full.
  4. Release your thumb, close your left nostrils with your ring finger, exhale slowly with your right nostril.
  5. Reverse and repeat process, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.

Try for about a minute for a start and slowly increase to 5-10minutes.
Best done on an empty stomach!

My new hobby is BREATHING.

I always thought that breathing is an autonomous process – but while I was doing some research, I learnt that breathing is the only autonomous system of the body that we CAN control, through conscious breathing practices such as pranayama.

 

In addition, I found out that there are MANY ways of pranayama, each with its own benefits. The more I know, the more I want to find out – I never imagined I would find breathing interesting.

 

Anyway, just for fun – I decided to test out some of the things I read about Pranayama/ breathing and below are my results:

S/N What I Read/ Heard My Test Results*
1 Pranayama helps with weight loss – the practice of breathing techniques is an effective way to reduce body fat. TRUE that pranayama reduces body fat but FALSE that it helps to lose weight. I practised Kapalbhati everyday for a week and found that my abdominal muscles became more defined.
2 Pranayama improves sense of well-being and immunity, among other numerous health benefits. TRUE.
I find that my rhinitis did not act up for the period that I was practising pranayama, and I did not have to use my nasal spray for that week!
3 According to some studies, breathing more slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce one’s appetite. FALSE.
I tried this before meals and even in between my meals but it did not work for me.
4 Some clinical studies have shown that Bhramari pranayama slows down breathing and heart rate and this may help calm our body for sleep. TRUE for Ujjayi breathing, not for Bhramari pranayama. I practised ujjayi breathing for about 5 minutes and it helped cure my insomnia.
5 When we breathe, we are either right nostril or left nostril dominant. It is believed that the right nostril is more open or breathing more smoothly when we are more fired up/ active/ aroused. Dominance in the left nostril tends to happen when we are relaxed and at ease. FALSE.

I tried this for more than 10 times over three days but my right nose was almost always more dominant. However, I think this could be because of my rhinitis that blocked one of my nostrils.

 

*These results are not conclusive as they were not done in a controlled environment and there could be several other factors affecting the outcome. They are meant for sharing purposes only, please feel free to conduct your own experiments as the results could vary for different individuals.

Lastly, it is said that we only have so many breaths in our life. If we could extend our life span a little longer just by taking as many slow, deep breaths as possible, why not? Start your daily 10mins pranayama practice today!

 

Anulom Vilom and its benefits to my body and mind

I am personally interested in spirituality and I have been trying a few kinds of meditations. But I only learned more about pranayama techniques in the yoga teacher training (YTT) with Tirisula, so Pranayama is new to me. I practiced some pranayama when I attended some yoga classes earlier, but I didn’t know much about its benefits and details. 

 

In Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ means life energy and ‘Ayama’ means expansion. I am interested in pranayama because the course manual says it’s a link between body, emotions, mind and spirit – so interesting!

 

Because of the homework of pranayama practicing, so I have been practicing Anulom Vilom every morning for a few weeks. For myself, I want to be more mindful and energize my body before I start my day so I choose to do Anulom Vilom to see if there is any effects to my body and mind.

 

Anulom Vilom is an alternate nostril breathing. To breathe with Anulom Vilom technique, we use the right hand with middle and index fingers folded towards the palm. Place the thumb on the right nostril and ring finger on the left nostril. Close the left nostril (or right). Inhale through the right (or left) nostril, close and exhale through the left (or right) nostril. Focus on the breath and continue for at least 10 rounds. It’s best to be done on an empty stomach.

 

From my studies, there are many benefits of Anulom Vilom:

  • Intake more oxygen and purify blood
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Improve concentration and focus
  • Energise the body when do it in the morning
  • Calm the mind down when do it at night

 

When I do Anulom Vilom in the morning, it helps to improve my concentration and energise my body. I like the fact that we can control our mind by control our breathing.

 

At night, when I can’t sleep, I will lie down on my right side so I can breathe well from my left nostril and it helps me to fall asleep faster. I don’t have insomnia, I only take time to fall asleep and Anulom Vilom helps!

 

This is only one pranayama technique among many other techniques that I learned e.g. Bastrika, Brahmari, Sheetari, Sama Vritti, etc. I will also use other pranayama techniques to suit the benefits I want for my body and mind and I would encourage everyone to try too 🙂  

Pranayama – sama vritti

Pranayama is the yogic practice of focusing on breath. Prana means “vital life force”, and yama means to gain control. In yoga, breath is associated with the prana, thus, pranayama is a means to elevate the Prana shakti, or life energies.

I have done some research on breathing techniques of Sama Vritti,

In Sanskrit, ‘sama‘ means ‘equal,’ ‘vritti‘ means ‘rotation/flow,’. Sama Vritti Pranayama is part of the yoga practice that teaches one to breath in four steps. This kind of breathing in English is called the Square Breathing or sometimes called Four Parts Even Breathing. (Nose) / boxing breathing

The four steps or the breathing cycle is given below:

  1. Puraka (Inhalation)
  2. Antar Kumbhaka (Retention after Inhalation)
  3. Rechaka (Exhalation)
  4. Bahya Kumbhaka (Retention after Exhalation)

Without changing anything observe the natural inhalation, the exhalation and the natural pauses between each breath.

  1. Begin with an exhale for the count of four.
  2. Hold on the exhale for the count of four.
  3. Inhale for the count of four.
  4. Hold on the inhale for the count of four.

The benefits

It can help you to cope with panic and stress when feeling overwhelmed.  It helps you to sleep when you are having insomnia. To control hyperventilation as you can instruct your lungs to breathe rhythmically. To stay focused when you are having a busy or stressful day. (Focusing the mind helping to remove distractions making it easier to concentrate and meditate.) Refining the breath and awareness of prana flow. Conscious inhalation of equal duration helps to improve the capacity of the lungs. It helps to energize the sleeping cells of the body. Long and deep inhalation (Puraka) build strong awareness. When Prana consciously held inside the body for equal counts its capacity to charge other organs increased automatically. It distributes the energy equally to all the organs of the body.

Nadi Shodana

The Nerves Calming Effect

To rest my eyes from staring too much on the screens during work, sometimes I like to look around and peculiarly, I would pick up one or two random facts in the room, for example, different breathing patterns. In a same room, some people breathe fast and shallow even though they are not working out, some people has less belly movement when breathing, and some create noises. I guess there are many reasons causing the differences, such as their body types, respiratory systems and living environments, or the effect of certain diseases or trainings. 

Breathing is vital because the oxygen we breathe in keep us alive, we use the oxygen to create energy. One person uses about 550 litres of oxygen per day and the tiny capillaries, the smallest type of blood vessel in our body transport the oxygen to the 50 trillion cells in our body. Over the century, human understand the importance of the oxygen in our body and developed many techniques, practices or exercises to educate the generations on how to take the full advantage of the air, and one of it is pranayama in Yoga. 

In Sanskrit, pranayama is the combination of 2 words, prana (vital energy) and ayama (expansion), literally, we shall learn how to expand the flow of the energy in our body. Pranayama is the teaching of using different breathing techniques to manifest the prana of the air into every cells of our body, and to train our breathing pattern within the realm of our conscious awareness.

One way to train our breathing pattern and to have a good control of it is to practice nadi shodana, a nerves calming breathing technique. Nadi shodana enable us to learn in getting control of our breathing by elongating the length of inhalation, exhalation and retention of the breath. And by elongating the length of the breathing, we slowly maximise the use of our lung capacity, which in turns able to provide healthier amount of oxygen to all the cells in our body.   

To practice nadi shodana, sit comfortably, spine straight and body weight distributed equally on the hips and legs. Eyes close, body relax and take a few smooth, even breaths. 

Take a last smooth and even breath and exhale completely. Gently close the right nostril with right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Inhale deeply for about 6 seconds.

As soon as the inhalation is completed, gently close the other nostril with the ring finger. Retain the breath for for about 12 seconds, or up to 24 seconds.

Keep the left nostril close and release the right thumb, begin exhaling through right nostril. Exhale slowly for about 12 seconds.  

After the exhalation and still on the right nostril, inhale deeply for about 6 seconds. Subsequently, block both nostrils and retain the breath for about 12 seconds and exhale through the left nostril for about 12 seconds.

Continue the breathing cycles for 10 minutes and finish the pranayama practice with three resting breaths through both nostrils and feel the calming effect.

The advantage of practicing nadi shodana is to help calming the nerves, or the astral energy tubes (nadis), as well as to reduce the soreness of the muscles.