By incorporating Pranayama a term for yogic breathing into your daily life, you can derive even more benefits from it. This type of breathing relaxes the muscles and helps stress melt away. People who practice pranayama regularly are happier and more relaxed. The beautiful thing is that you can do it absolutely anywhere.
The term Pranayama is derived from the Sanskrit words prana, meaning “life force”, and ayama, meaning “expansion or extension”. Together they translate to breath extension or breath control.
Pranayama, or breath control, is the fourth limb of 8 limbs of yoga. It is defined by BKS Iyengar in Light on Pranayama as the conscious prolongation of inhalation, retention and exhalation to help yogis develop a steady mind, sound judgement and willpower.
This means that the quality of breath determines the quality of our prana and overall vitality.
Be that as it may, don’t mistake prana for the breath itself – a significant number of us experience life breathing naturally however are as yet lacking in prana. This is on the grounds that a large portion of us don’t breathe into our full body consistently.
The natural breathing process sometimes only stops at the upper chest, especially when we are met with anxiety or stress. Even during the times we do breathe into the lower belly, our upper abdomen and mid-body fail to expand with the breath.
Pranayama breathing demands we “breathe into” the full body – not just the front torso, but also the sides and the back; not just the chest but the full belly, abdomen, rib cage and chest.
The Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama requires us to be conscious about how we breathe. We actively extend the inhales, exhales and retention instead of letting the automatic breathing process take place. The sole purpose of this activity is to increase our prana and supercharge our health.
There are many different types of pranayama breathing techniques, some are meant to energize the nervous system while others calm our minds and bodies.
When done right, breathing can be have an energizing, relaxing and healing effect on the body and that is why practicing pranayama regularly is essential in our daily lives.
Research has shown that regular pranayama practice can (not limiting to the following):
- Reduces stress and anxiety levels
- Strengthen respiratory system
- Lower heart rate to relieve tension
- Lower/stabilize blood pressure
- Increase energy level
- Promote muscle relaxation
- Stimulate lymph flow and hence immunity
- Improve digestive system functions and many more
3 Pranayama Yoga Breathing Exercise To Kickstart Your Morning
Try spending just 5 minutes every morning for these breathing exercises. You’ll be amazed how these can transform your energy levels, making you more awake to start your day.
These morning breathing exercises are best practiced first thing when you’ve just woken up. You can choose to sit in your bed or on the floor. Just make sure that you are comfortable and able to sit up straight.
1. Dirga Swasam Pranayama
Dirga Swasam Pranayama or Dirga Pranayama involves breathing through “three parts” of the mid-body, namely the belly, the ribcage or diaphragm, and the chest. This is also known as the Three-Part Breath or Complete Breath.
One: Inhale through the nose, focus on the breathing deeply into your belly expanding like a balloon as the breath moves into your lungs, expanding your ribcage and chest. Then breathing out through your nose, tightening your abdominal muscles and drawing your belly button to the spine, allowing as much air as possible to escape from your lungs.
Two: Much the same, with an added step. Inhale through the nose, allowing your belly to expand, and then allow the breath to expand your rib cage as well. When you exhale through the nose, squeeze the air out of your rib cage and belly until they’re empty.
Three: Take it a step farther. Inhale through the nose, allowing your belly to expand as the breath moves into your lungs and rib cage, and then invite the breath into your upper chest, to your pectoral muscles and clavicle. Then exhale fully.
This is a great exercise to do if you are always breathing shallow, short spurts of breaths. It helps to calm down the mind and body almost immediately.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama
In Sanskrit, the word Ujjayi means to conquer or to be victorious and is therefore referred to as the Victorious Breath. It is also known as the Ocean Breath, because of the sound it makes when done correctly.
- With your mouth open exhale into your palm, imagining you are steaming up a mirror/ glass and feeling the warm breath on your palm.
- Creating a slight constriction at the back of your throat so you hear a HAAAAA sound as you breathe in and out.
- On your next inhale keep the hand where it is, breathe in making that same sound. Practise this for up to 10 cycles (4 count in, 4 count out, x10).
Unlike other pranayama practices which are mostly practised in a sitting or lying position, Ujjayi breathing can also be performed during an asana (yoga pose) practice.
3. Kapalabhati Pranayama
Kapalabhati Pranayama is known as the skull-polishing breath since kapala translates into “skull” and bhati means “shining”. It involves alternating passive inhales, and short but forceful exhales through the nose.
- Begin short sharp exhales out of your nose, drawing your belly in quickly as you breathe out to help expel the air from your lungs
- Your inhale is a passive reaction to the sharp exhale. As your belly relaxes the inhale will naturally follow.
- Repeat for 30 short, sharp exhales, and then take a few regular breath through your nose.
Kapalabhati oxygenates the blood quickly and rejuvenates the mind and body. It helps to release toxins, improves digestion, reduces stress, warms the body and increases energy.
Try them! I hope you will feel energised, uplifted and calm after doing these 3 pranayama breathing exercises.
Have a happy day ahead.