Understanding Pranayama And What It Can Do For Us
What Is Pranayama?
We’re getting word-specific here. With a Sanskrit origin, Pranayama literally means “controlling of breath”, “prana meaning “breath” and “Ayama” meaning “control”. We can’t get any simpler than this and there certainly isn’t a deeper meaning behind it. It’s exactly what it is.
This might be the first time you’re hearing of this word, and that’s totally fine. You might also be wondering, “Breath control? Do we need this? We breathe every second of every day without having to think of it.” Our answer? Yes. We need to learn how we can control our breathing in order for us to have harmony within our bodies and our minds.
It’s a conscious effort, much like when you do different forms of physical exercise. There are various types of Pranayama, but what we will be focusing on are the practical ways you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
Why Learn Pranayama?
For clarity of the heart and of the mind. Practicing Pranayama allows us room to “breathe”. It gives our bodies, minds, and emotions time to regenerate and recuperate. By doing so, our systems can go back to their basic functions, which will help us achieve overall health.
Take a look at a few techniques and poses you will find easy to do, and will, in turn, teach you how to channel Pranayama into refreshing your life force. Fair warning, don’t let the unfamiliar terms scare you.
1. Nadhi Sodhana
Nadhi Sodhana is about breathing through your nostrils. You can either sit or lie down to do this. It’s a very uncomplicated manner of letting air go through your nostrils and into your lungs and then letting that be exhaled through the same passageway.
First, use your thumb to cover one nostril and use only the other to fill your belly with air. Once you feel that you have reached the end of your inhalation capacity, block your open nostril and keep the breath inside your for a few seconds (we recommend 5-8 seconds). It’s a hold-your-breath technique. Once finished, release the air through the same nostril you inhaled it with. Similarly, repeat the steps at least 5 times with each nostril.
2. Sitali Pranayama
Also known as cooling breathing, Sitali Pranayama is most effective when the body is in a warm climate.
First, in an upright sitting position, roll your tongue out and let the sides curve into the center so that it forms a kind of tube. Your lips should be in a pursed form to hold this technique.
Secondly, slowly inhale through your “tongue tube” and hold your breath for 5 to 8 seconds, before exhaling through your nose.
Do this eight to ten times. You will be surprised at how this can actually help cool your body down.
3. Ujjayi Pranayama
For a calm and warm body and mind. The literal definition of the word “Ujjayi” is “victorious”. It follows then that Ujjayi Pranayama means “victorious breath or breathing”.
With both nostrils, inhale deeply until you reach your lunch capacity and hold it for a few seconds. Upon exhaling, contract your throat so that it will feel as though you’re compressing some of that air at the back of your throat. Let your breath go through your nostrils again.
Take note: try to produce a hissing sound when breathing in and out. You will notice that it will make a sound similar to quiet ocean waves. Thus, making this technique known as “ocean breath”.
4. Kapalabhati Pranayama
You might be surprised that this type of Pranayama is known for its other name, “Skull Shining Breath”. Don’t let this scare you. More than a breathing exercise, it is also a cleansing technique that develops your lungs’ breath intake.
Think inhale and exhale with tummy tucks. Take a short breath through your nostrils, and without holding the air for very long, exhale briefly. Curtly tuck your tummy in every time you exhale. You should be able to feel a little pressure in your abdominal muscles as you repeat this cycle. Do so for about 30 rounds.