Techniques to support you through challenging times part II: Pranayama & a Beautiful Meditation

In my recent blog, I introduced you to Pranayama (breathing techniques) and the benefits that these practices have on the body - both physically and emotionally. Not only do these simple techniques help to boost the immune system, making you more resilient during challenging times, but they also

help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, fear and/or panic, bringing you into a calmer state of being, with the ability to handle people and situations with clarity and ease.


I also introduced you to the following basic breathing techniques, upon which all other pranayamas are built:

· Conscious control of the breath

· Slowing and deepening of the breath

· Directing the breath into the upper body

· Adding the ujjayi breath ~ the ocean breath

· Abdominal breathing ~ expanding the belly with the breath

· Yogic breathing ~ breathing into the belly, ribs and chest on the inhale and exhaling in reverse


In this blog, I would like to expand upon the above and share with you a few more simple breathing techniques, as well as a powerful meditation to send healing energy to yourself and to others, with the intention of uplifting ones own vibration and bringing healing to this world.



No Breath, No Life....... Know Breath, Know Life.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


BENEFITS OF PRANAYAMA IN YOGIC TERMS:

Prana and Lifestyle:

Lifestyle has a profound impact on the body and the flow of prana (life force or energy) within it. Physical activities such as exercise, work, sleep, intake of food and sexual relations all affect the distribution and flow of prana in the body. Faculties of the mind such as emotion, thought and imagination affect the chakras (energetic centres) even more. Irregularities in lifestyle, the diet and stress deplete and obstruct the flow of prana, resulting in a feeling of being ‘drained of energy’. Depletion of energy in a particular chakra leads to the devitalisation of the organs and limbs it governs and ultimately to disease or metabolic dysfunction. The techniques of pranayama reverse this process, energizing and balancing the different chakras within the body.

Breath, Health and Pranayama:

It’s the first thing and the last thing we do in our lives. The one constant thing we all have. Without breath there is no life!

Daily stressors, tensions and physical habits can create physical and energetic obstacles in our bodies. Without even noticing it our breathing can become gradually more shallow or stilted, we develop unconscious breathing patterns restricting the flow of breath and prana.

When we work on freeing the breath through pranayama we are also working on letting the life energy flow through the body. It has the effect of energizing, relaxing and healing the body, letting everything fall into place. Literally it is an increase and balance of life energy in your system.

4 Benefits of regular practice of pranayama

  1. Increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana.

  2. Clears blocked nadis (energy channels) and chakras (energy centres). Clears the whole energy around you, expands your aura and heightens the spirit.

  3. Makes one energetic, enthusiastic and positive.

  4. Brings harmony between the body, mind, and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong. It brings clarity to the mind and good health to the body.


TWO SIMPLE BREATHING TECHNIQUES TO DEAL WITH STRESS:


The following simple breathing techniques will help you to become familiar with your own respiratory system and breathing patterns. They are very relaxing and may be practiced at anytime. Awareness of the breathing process is itself sufficient to slow down the respiratory rate and establish a more relaxed rhythm.


Rhythmic Breathing : Extending exhalation (1:2 ratio)

· Sit in vajrasan, sukhasana or any comfortable cross-legged position.

· Relax the body and practice breath awareness. Do not alter or control the breath in any way.

· Become aware of how rhythmic or arrhythmic the natural breath is. Is the inhalation longer or shorter than the exhalation?

· The practice slow deep breathing with awareness of each inhalation and exhalation. Let the breathing become stabilized.

· Begin to practice abdominal breathing (breathing into the belly, feeling it expand beneath your hands), inhaling for the count of 4 and exhaling for the count of 4.

· Feel the breath become rhythmical.

· Once a smooth even rhythm is established, count to 4 on inhalation and to 5 on exhalation.

· Extend the count of exhalation to 6,7 and 8.

· Practice 5 rounds with the 4:8 ratio.

· Repeat the process with yogic breathing (breathing into the belly, ribs and chest on the inhale and exhaling in reverse: chest, ribs and belly draws back to the spine at the bottom of the exhale).


Benefits:

· Inhalation is an active movement, whereas exhalation is a passive movement of relaxation.

· It slows the heart rate compared to the inhalation.

· The abdominal muscles are contracted which has a strengthening effect.

· It reduces emotional sadness and helps in times of stress.

· It prepares one for the more advanced practices of pranayama.


Viloma Pranayama

Viloma Pranayama is a very simple breathing technique that can be practiced by anybody. It can be practiced sitting or in savasana (corpse pose) and is a great technique for those new to pranayama.

The word Viloma comes from the words 'Vi' which means against, and ‘Loma’ which means hair, and hence viloma means against the natural flow.

Viloma is an interrupted breathing technique where you pause briefly during your breath. 

This pranayama gently introduces the concept of expanding the breath and lung capacity through controlling your breath. It can be used as a preparation for nadi shodhana and bhastrika.

Variations:

There are three variations of this pranayama:

  1. Interrupted inhalation

  2. Interrupted exhalation

  3. Interrupted inhalation & exhalation


Technique 1: interrupted inhalation

· Lie in savasana or sit in any comfortable position.

· Relax the body and practice breath awareness for a few minutes.

· Practice slow deep breathing with awareness of each inhalation and exhalation. Let the breathing become stabilized.

· Begin inhalation with a series of short pauses: inhale-pause, inhale-pause, inhale-pause. Continue until the lungs are full.

· Imagine that you are breathing up a set of stairs.

· On completion of the interrupted inhalation, exhale slowly and smoothly until the lungs are empty.

· Practice 11 rounds, then relax and breathe normally.


Technique 2: interrupted exhalation

· Practice in the same way except that the inhalation is smooth and full.

· The exhalation is interrupted by a series of pauses until the lungs are completely empty.

· Practice 11 rounds, then relax and breathe normally.


Technique 3: interruption of inhalation and exhalation

· This practice combines both an interrupted inhalation and an interrupted exhalation.

· Inhale with a series of pauses until the lungs are full.

· Then exhale with a series of pauses until the lungs are empty.

· Try to control the abdomen but do not use force.

· Practice 11 rounds.


Benefits of Viloma Pranayama

  • Improves control of the breath and movement of air within the body.

  • Helps you cool down after an active yoga class.

  • Helps to relieve anxiety.

  • Helps to relieve tension from PMS.

Some Tips when practicing this Pranayama

  • When practicing this pranayama, become aware of the movement of the breath in your body.

  • The number of pauses may vary in the three techniques, but will normally be 3-5.

  • Become aware of a different ‘area’ of your lungs after each pause or interruption.

  • Keep your breath relaxed and soft. Focus on keeping the quality of the breath gentle.

  • Short forceful breaths will prepare the lungs and musculature for more advanced pranayama practices such as bhastrika and kapalbhati.


Try to do these practices every morning for 10 -15 minutes (or longer) to set the tone for the day.

You can also do these practices at any time of the day when you are feeling anxious, stressed or tired. After practicing these techniques, rest for a few minutes and notice how you feel. Notice the sensations in your body. Notice the sense of calm in your mind. Enjoy this sense of relaxation. You can finish this practice with a meditation for creating a beautiful world. Then you will be ready to begin your day with a calm, centred and balanced body and mind.


A MEDITATION FOR CREATING A BEAUTIFUL WORLD



This powerful meditation helps to bring healing and peace to yourself as well as to others.


  • Sit up tall in a comfortable position, drawing your chin in slightly, with your shoulders relaxed.

  • Place your hands in Anjali mudra (prayer position) at your heart centre, pressing your palms firmly together.

  • Close your eyes and imagine that you are sitting atop a tall mountain overlooking all of humanity, and sending waves of peace over the entire globe.

  • Inhale and then chant Ra Ma Da Sa (pause), Sa Say So Hung in the following melody:



  • Chant this out loud for 12 minutes, then inhale, hold the breath and send love and light to someone you care about. Visualise them as happy, healthy and fulfilled. Do this visualisation twice more.


The mantra, "Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung", is a very powerful sound current and has immediate effects to bring healing to yourself and to others. The sounds translate to:


" Sun, Moon, Earth, Infinity, I am that Infinity I belong to and contain"


Remember, cause and effect is an unavoidable law of the Universe. Whenever we pray or send positive thoughts to someone, it has to make a difference. This meditation helps you to channel and magnify the power of your thoughts, to bring about health and happiness. Whenever we make sacrifices to uplift and heal others, the Universe will sacrifice for us.




Please reach out to me if you have any queries about the practices or if you just want to get in touch. Although we are not physically in touch, I am just a call, text or email away.


Sending you all Love, Light & Blessings

Angela xxx


"Take some time off to go within, in silence. With that, your charm becomes eternal, your love becomes unconditional and great strength arises" ~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar


REFERENCES:

Gurmukh. Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful: Experience the natural power of pregnancy and birth with Kundalini you and meditation. St Martin's Griffin Edition, 2004.

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. Prana and Pranayama. Bihar School of Yoga. Mungar, Bihar 2016.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar Yoga Bharati. Munger, Bihar 1997.

Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. Breathing Practices in Pranayama. www.swamiJ.com

Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. Diaphragmatic Breathing. www.swamiJ.com

The Art of Living. The Science of Breath. www.aolresearch.com

BKS Iyengar. Light on Pranayama. BKS Iyengar, 2013.

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