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