Pranayama – rediscover your best friend

 

Our journey on this earth will start and end with a single breath. Yet most of us have forgotten that breathing is so essential to our life. In our day to day life we are oblivious to it. And in truth we are really bad at it, well at least I know I was. I really wish I’d been taught how to breathe better at school or as part of physical education. It is a skill we would really benefit from an early age and for the long term…

 

The great gift of the breath is that it is also a volontary action, so we can take control and train our breath, with care.

 

First by just paying attention, how is our breathing pattern in this instant? Is my breathing long, deep, shallow, fast? Do I have a dominant nostril? Is the breathing pattern flowing smoothly or restrained in some areas? Gaining awareness of our breath is already a major first step.

 

Then by acting on the breath through Pranayama. What would be the most beneficial practice in this instant?, would it be to try to calm your mental state?, to energise you?, to balance your left and right channels?, to deepen your breath, making the inhale and/or exhale longer?

 

There are many different techniques depending on the benefit one is looking for. It doesn’t necessarily take long 10′ can be sufficient, although 20-40′ are recommended. Befriend your breath again and the changes will happen through a steady and regular practice. Remember there is no rush as this is one a few activity we’ll be able to practice till the end of our life ūüėČ

Jala neti and Yoga

Kriya (in Sanskrit “action, deed, effort”) most commonly refers to a “completed action”, technique or practice within a yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. Types of kriya may vary widely between different schools of yoga. Another meaning of Kriya is the outward physical manifestations of awakened kundalini. Kriyas can also be the spontaneous movements resulting from the awakening of Kundalini energy.

 The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the six kriya cleansing techniques. These techniques should only be practiced under proper guidance especially for first timer:

In this article, Jala neti will be discussed in detail including the benefits and methods.Jala neti importance in yoga dates back to thousands of year.In order to benefit from yoga, it is imperative to breathe fully and deeply through the nose and this is especially needed in Pranayama. Pranayama is all about regulating and controlling the breath and sustaining the life force in us. It is responsible to bring about tremendous changes in our body and mind. Therefore, jala neti is important to ensure that our breath flow can be regulated. Through this cleansing, the pituitary gland will be stimulated which awakens the energy center behind the forehead called the Ajna Chakra.This Chakra must be sufficiently stimulated for higher states of meditation.In addition, Jala  neti also helps in relaxation with unobstructed and freely flowing breath.This helps to ensure an abundant supply of oxygen at the right temperature to stimulate relaxation.All these benefits sum up the importance of Jala neti in Yoga practice.
 Jala neti

For this technique, lukewarm isotonic salt water is poured into one nostril, so that it leaves through the other. The procedure is then repeated on the other side, and the nose is dried by bending forward and by rapid breathing.[2]It is also possible to sniff the water in so that it runs into the mouth, and to spit it out. In a more advanced reverse variant, the water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out of the nose.[2]

 
Benefits

  • Clears the nasal cavities and passageways
  • Regulate nose breathing
  • Flushes the tear ducts
  • Rejuvenate your sense of smell and taste
  • Stimulates the Ajna chakra
  • Stimulate relaxation nd beneficial in meditation
  • Moisten the dry nasal cavities and passageways
  • Reduce diseases like asthma and bronchitis and chronicsinusitis

Method: 
Tools:

  • Neti pot
  • Pure water

Venues:

  • over a sink,
  • a bowl on a table,
  • in the shower or
  • outside

Steps:

    1. First fill the Neti Potwith warm water of a temperature suitable for pouring in the nose. Neither too hot or cold.
    2. Pure water is best if available. Mix in salt to the proportion of one teaspoon for half a litre of water. This equates to 0.9% and is called isotonic solution ‚Äď the same as human blood. Sea salt is best if available.
    3. Mix well so that the salt is diluted completely. You will find all this out with growing experience, it differs from person to person. Some like a higher saline solution, some even do it without salt. The tissue of the nose is very sensitive and reacts immediately if something is not right.
    4. Place the nose cone into the right nostril, sealing it inside the nostril with a few twists and slight pressure. Try to point the spout straight up in line with the nasal passage so as not to block off the tip of the nozzle on the inside of the nose.
    5. Open your mouth and breathe gently through the mouth. .
    6. Now slowly bend forward from the waist so that the tip of the nose is the lowest point of the head; and then tilt/roll the head to the right, so that the left nostril is now the lowest point of the nose. Tilt slowly so that water doesn’t run out the top of the pot onto your face.
    7. Keep the nose cone fully sealed into the right nostril so that it doesn’t leak. Keep on mouth breathing whiles the water comes through. Just wait a few seconds and the water should run out the left nostril.
    8. keep breathing slowly and gently through the mouth. After the water begins to run, wait about 30 seconds for about half a pot to flow right to left, and then remove the pot and stand up.
    9. Before changing sides, blow out gently through both nostrils to clear water and mucus from the nose.
    10. Repeat the steps as above, but with the nose cone entering the left nostril and the flow of water going left to right.
    11.  After the pot runs dry, stand up, blow out gently through both nostrils and then prepare to dry out the nose.
    12. Repeat the whole process if there is still a mucus blockage. However, it is recommended to see a doctor after a few trial as there might besome structural blockage in the nose.
    13. If further guidance is needed, do ask any yoga practitioner for help.

Finale stage:

  1. Nose drying is very important and always remember to do this.
  2. Bend forwards from the waist and hang head upside down with the nose pointing towards the floor. Point the nose towards the knees and let any residual water drain from the nose. Gently breath in the mouth and out for 10 breaths.
  3. Then stand up and do some fast breathing through the nostril for 10 breaths, sniffing in and out moderately. Close of the right nostril with one finger and do 10 fast sniffing through the left nostril only. Repeat this on the other side of the nostril.
  4. Lastly, do 10 fast sniffing breath through both nostrils together.
  5. If you feel there are still some residual water, repeat the whole drying process.
  6. Drying nose is very important so as to prevent manifestation of cold and also infection in the sinus passages/ eustachian tubes.

Alternative
Dugdha Neti – Neti with Milk

    1. This method is good for those suffering from chronic nose bleeds or are sensitive towards salty water.
    2. It is best done after using salty water

 Differences

    1. The flow of milk do not go from one side to another , it only fills the ingoing nostril and then withdrawn
    2. Once from each side is sufficient.
    3. This practice should be done under proper guidance and not done excessively.

Halasana technique

The name comes from the Sanskrit words hala meaning “plow” and asana meaning “posture” or “seat. The plow is represented in the myths and traditional stories of Egypt, China, Tibet & India. In the Ramayana, King Janaka uncovers a beautiful baby girl as he is plowing the earth in a sacrificial ground. He adopts the baby and names her Sita, and she later becomes the beautiful wife of Rama. This story relates the power of the plow as a tool for revealing hidden treasures.

 
Benefits:

  • Calming, restorative effect on the sympathetic nervous system
  • ¬†Assists in balancing the glandular secretions adrenaline and thyroxin
  • ¬†Improve in the elimination of toxins in the digestive and urinary tracts
  • Relief from hypertension in the pose for those with high blood pressure
  • helps nourish the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine by increasing circulation and suppleness
  • Promote mental clarity and increased vitality

 
Finishing sequence:
Halasana¬† is part of the finishing pose as it helps to prepare the practitioner for relaxation, pranayama and meditation. This pose taps into the body’s natural processes of relaxation by pacifying the nerves, soothing the brain and heart , and regulating the breath. All this preparation helps to develop the stillness and alertness needed for pranayama and meditation.
 
Cautions:

  • Take care not to overwork and possibly injure the vulnerable cervical vertebrae.
  • Practice on a thicker yoga mats else if you are using a thinner mat, try folding the mat in half to create a double thickness under your head, shoulders, and arms, or use two mats, one on top of the other.
  • ¬†Additional support will be needed in the event of serious neck problems
  • This pose can put significant strain on the cervical spine, which does not normally undergo this type of stress, and can cause injury if not performed properly.As alternatives, simply lying on the back and raising the legs into a hamstring stretch, or doing a seated forward bend may be appropriate.

Step-by-step:

  • Lie flat down on your mat with arms at your sides, palms down pressing into the floor.
  • Spread your shoulder blades apart with a slight inward rotation of the arms.
  • With an inhalation, lift your legs up to vertical, keeping your spine flat on the floor.
  • ¬†Take several breaths here, feeling the release of any tension in the throat, shoulders, and chest with each exhalation.
  • With your next exhalation, slowly draw your navel toward the spine and lift your legs over your head, lifting your hips off the floor.

Beginner’s¬† tip:

  1.  move near a wall and with your legs vertical,
  2. bend your knees to 90 degrees &  press your feet into the wall, and practice raising your hips.
  3. When you feel a softness coming to your frontal body, move away from the wall to work at lifting your legs over your head until they are parallel with the floor.
  4. Keep your legs firm, your knees straight, and avoid hardening your buttocks.
  5. With your toes on the floor, lift your top thighs and tailbone toward the ceiling and draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis. Continue to draw your chin away from your sternum and soften your throat.

 

  • Once you can maintain your balance( shown in the above pic), focus on the rise and fall of the breath, filling the back of the lungs as you inhale
  • ¬†As the spine lifts, the toes will sink toward the floor.
  • ¬†Keep normal breathing and¬† with each cycle, try¬† to release tension in the frontal body while supporting the lift in the back body (spine).
  • After 10 cycles of breath, slowly bend your knees and roll the spine down until the whole back side of your body rests on the floor.

Beginners class #1

By Elaine Ee
Beginners Yoga: Lesson Plan #1
Intro: My name is Elaine, I’m going to be your yoga guide for the next 60 minutes. This is a beginners’ yoga class and today we are going to learn some basic yoga poses and movements, focusing on alignment, breath and working a little bit on strength and flexibility.
Mantra: 3 Oms
Breathing: Start with deep breathing, 6 counts inhale, 6 counts exhale.
Introduce Ujayi breathing (breathing using the throat, nose is only a passageway)
5min
Warm up: Head to toe: neck rolls, shoulder rolls, arm rotations (forwards, backwards, both directions), stretch deltoids (hold for 5 secs), pelvic rotations, hip rotations, ankle rotations
– x 5 times per side/direction
5 min
Surya Namaska A
– step back version x 5 times (knees, hips, chin on the ground; hold downward dog for 5 deep breaths)
(harder option: jump back)
10 min
Asanas
Standing:
Ukatasana with arms overhead, parallel
(easier option: arms in front; harder option: arms overhead, palm touching)
Transition from Ukatasana into easy chaturanga, upward dog and downward dog
Step into Virabradrasana A, left and right side; then Virabradranasa B, left and right. Hold each warrior pose for 5 deep breaths.
Transition back into Ukatasana.
Step back sideways into Trikonasana; left and right, hold for 5 deep breaths each.
Back to samasthiti
Padahastasana, holding heels. Pull on heels, face flat on shins, weight forwards. 5 breaths.
Step back sideways into Prasarita Padottasanana A. Go down with a flat back, knees locked to protect hamstrings, tummy tucked in to push sit bones up. 5 breaths
Samasthiti
Sitting:
Sit in Dadasana
Push up to Purvattanasana, counter pose. 5 breaths x 2
Sit back in Dadasana
Pachimottasana A. Walk sit bones back first, use peace sign fingers to grip big toes, emphasize flat back. 5 breaths x 2
Dadasana
Janu Sirasana A, 5 breaths each side. (harder option: Janu Sirasana B)
Dadasana
Triang Mukha Ekapada Pach, 5 breaths each side.
Supine:
Supta Vajrasana (fixed firm), to be counter pose to forward bends and to transition into supine positions. 5 breaths x 2; child’s pose in between
Ushtrasana (camel), 5 breaths x 2; child’s pose in between
Sasangasana (rabbit), 10 breaths x 1
Finish:
Twist: right leg cross over left, flex right knee, place right foot by left knee; right hand on floor at the back for support. Raise left hand, twist and place left hand by right knee. 5 breaths each side
(harder version: bend left knee)
Pranayama
Uyaji breathing, 25 breaths
Mantra
3 Oms
Savasana

Pranayama and its benefits

After practicing Yama, Niyama and Asana one should go for Pranayama. Pranayama is made of two words “prana” and “yama”. Prana means energy or vital force and yama means control. Breath and Pran are two different things altogether. But we cannot see them apart from each other. Breath is Sthula (gross) and Prana is Suksham (subtle). Breath is the external manifestation of Prana. Therefore, Pranayama is “Control of Breath”. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.
In yogic point, Pranayama is basically series of exercises, which aims at bringing more oxygen to blood and to the brain. It not only regulates the flow of blood but also regulates proper functioning of thoughts and desire. The practice of this asana removes the obstruction, which encumber the flow of prana. It gives poise and tremendous will power. It generates lots of courage and confidence within an individual. Pranayama is an art and has techniques to make the respiratory organs to move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively.
Our lungs are divided into three parts:

  • The upper part up to the neck.
  • On both sides of the heart.
  • The lower part.

When we take a deep breath, all the three parts of the lungs are fully charged with Pranic energy. Also, the circulation of this energy in the naval region and its flow into the middle section and thereafter its total penetration into the lungs is the main function of Pranayama. Ordinarily, all human beings breathe. But the breathing process of a normal person is different from the one who is practicing Pranayama.
Benefits of Pranayama:
Pranayama has the capacity of freeing the mind from untruthfulness, ignorance and all other painful and unpleasant experiences of the body and mind. Its major benefits are:

  • It is helpful in the purification of all the nadis (channels through which energy flows) in our system.
  • It cures the ailments of the lungs, headache and mental tension.
  • It expels all the waste matter and poisonous elements from the body.
  • It gives longevity of life and enhances the beauty of the face.
  • It is required for the rectification of the different systems and their vitalization.
  • It makes the sense organs more inward and brings fall to the thought currents.
  • Finally, it is very helpful in the development of our vital energy and the spiritual power.

Essentials of performing Pranayama:

  • Practice of Pranayama in a tranquil, open and clean environment is ideal.
  • Pranayama should be performed only on empty stomach and after passing clear motion.
  • Performing Pranayama in a Lotus posture is ideal. In this posture, the backbone is absolutely straight and hence there is a flow of blood in each and every vertebrae¬†of the body. Since the ribs are upright there is full oxygen flow in the lungs. Because of this the distribution of the Prana Vayu (flow of energy) takes place in a complete and systematic way.
  • During retention of breath, learn to retain the first indrawn breath with stability. If stability is lost, it is better to release the breath, rather than strain to hold it.
  • Attempt Pranayama only when the yoga Asana has been mastered.
  • It has to be practiced with the greatest sincerity and precision.
  • Take care not to disturb or jerk the vital organs and nerves, or stress the brain cells.

According to Hindu mythology, a person has limited number of breaths in life. A person, who regularly performs Pranayam, is required to take lesser number of breaths and therefore lives longer.

Calming the Rajasic Mind with Ujjayi Breath

One of the reasons I started practicing yoga regularly is the effect that I noticed yoga has on me in terms of helping me relieve stress. No matter what stress burdens I carry into the yoga practice, I always come back from svasana feeling more centered and calm. Always. When we experience high levels of stress, yoga philosophy describes our mind as going into a rajasic state characterised by agitation, tension (hence tension headaches) and flitting thoughts. Asanas that stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system such as saravangasana (shoulderstand) and baddha konasana (bound angle forward bend) can help to calm the rajasic mind. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that there is a strong link between pranayama (yogic breathing) and state of mind.
When we are in a rajasic state of mind, our breathing is often rapid and shallow and our sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. Ujjayi breath has a calming ability in that when we breathe through our nose and constrict our throat, we increase the air resistance in our nasal passages which in turn slows down our respiratory rate. As we lengthen the exhalation to twice that of inhalation (e.g. 1:2 ratio) we also increase the circulation of oxygen in our body and release carbon dioxide more slowly. The ocean-like sound created when we practice ujjayi breath also serves as a meditative center that we can focus on all of which helps us to come to a more sattvic state of mind.
I’ve found ujjayi breath invaluable and has taken it to work and used it whenever I feel stressed. The age-old adage ‘just breathe!’ has been imbued with new meaning for me indeed.

Bhastrika Pranayama To Stay in the Pink of Health

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika means bellows breath.
In this type of Pranayama the lungs expand and collapse like bellows of the blacksmith.
This pranayama consists of quick inhalation and exhalation and produces a lot of heat within the body. It can be performed with slow, medium or fast pace as per your capacity.  However, people who suffer from high blood pressure, hypertension, pregnant women, cancer, diabetes, lung problems are not advised to proceed with the practice.  Women go through their monthly menstrual periods are also not advise to practice.
The technique to perform this pranayama is as follows:

  • Sit in any meditative position with spine and head erect
  • Inhale quickly so as to expand your chest i.e. lungs are filled with air
  • Without retaining the breath quickly exhale the breath
  • Again inhale the breath and exhale as before

Perform such quick rounds of inhalation and exhalation slowly and steadily without putting too much pressure or force.  Practice 10 rounds of 10 quick inhalations and exhalations which total to 100.
Practicing this pranayama leads to glowing health and skin, clears sore throat, increases lung capacity, clears doubts and mental pain, helps in depression and so on.
Happy practicing.
Note: This pranayama should be practiced with proper guidance from a well qualified yoga teacher.  The author is not responsible for any injuries whatsoever that may arise from following the steps given above without proper guidance from the author.

Mantra for Pranayama

Hi All
Pranayama Mantra
Om pranasyedam vashe sarvam
Tridive yath pratiptitam
Matheva putran rakshasva
Shreescha pranjnaascha videhi na ithi
Om shantih shantih shantihi
Meaning
Prana the vital force pervades all the three worlds (below the earth, the earth and above the earth)
All the activities are directed by prana
To that very prana we request to protect us as a mother protects her children.
We also request the prana to simulate our intellect.

Maintain your relationships by Ujjayi breathing

Now back to the main part. So how do you maintain your relationship?
You want to get the your the other half to listen and at the same time hear you out instead of putting you down all the time.
This is the practice known as ‚ÄúUjjayi‚ÄĚ breathing or pranayama technique.
Ujjayi Pranayama ‚Äď With Bandhas (With Breath retention)
Sanskrit: Ud-jayi Ud=Upward or Superior; Jaya=Conquest/Victory. Also implies restraint or curbing

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika Says about Ujjayi:
Closing the mouth, inhale with control and concentration through the ida and pingala. so that the breath is felt from the throat to the heart and produces a sonorous sound.
This pranayama, called Ujjayi, can be done while moving, standing, sitting or walking. It removes dropsy and disorders of the nadis and dhatu.

Indications:Insomnia, Fluid retention in the body, High blood pressure, Nervousness, Phlegm in lungs
Contra-Indications:People who are excessively introverted should not practise this in excess. Those having heart disease or blood pressure should not practise with Bandhas.
For practise with Bandhas you should avoid alcohol, intoxicants and meat
Benefits of Ujjayi:

  1. Ujjayi is one of the pranayamas that all beginners should practise. It aids in quieting the tumultous, chaotic and outward going mind and helps it to increase its awareness of the internals. It is will also improve you practise of asanas greatly by increasing awareness of the changes happening within.
  2. Ujjayi is a tranquilizing pranayama and is profoundly relaxing at the psychic level and is very effective in soothing the nervous system or decreasing hyperactivity. The effects are obvious within a couple of days of practise.
  3. It is a good cure for insomnia if practised in a lying down posture Shavasana before going to bed. It also has a heating effect on the body and eliminates excess accumulated fluids in the body.
  4. Ujjayi promotes internalization of the senses (making the senses look inward) and is beneficial for the practise of meditation, and for the practise of pratyahara (which is one of the more advanced practises in ashtanga yoga).
  5. Finally, Ujjayi pranayama promotes a healthy relationship with spouses and partners alike. It can be the cure for a lot of relationship ills that has been marring couples through all ages.

Look out for more details in the next blog.