Since I completed my yoga teacher training in May 2012 in Peru I have done a daily pranayama practice.
Pranayama is the ancient art of breathing techniques.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prāṇ or breath” or, “extension of the life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “ayām”, to extend or draw out. (Not ‘restrain, or control’ as is often translated from ‘yam’ instead of ‘ayāma’). The origins of this yogic discipline lies in ancient Bharat (India) and what is known as present day Hinduism.
Breathing is obviously something we all do, every day of our lives, which can lead to only ever breathing unconsciously. Breathing consciously can not only cleanse, rejuvenate and harmonise our system but apparently is a tool for ascension.
Every day I start with Nadi Shodana or alternative nostril breathing.
This particular technique brings into alignment the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama):
- Excellent breathing technique to calm and centre the mind. Our mind has a tendency to keep regretting or glorifying the past and getting anxious about the future. Nadi Shodhan pranayama helps to bring the mind back to the present moment.
- Works therapeutically for most circulatory and respiratory problems.
- Releases accumulated stress in the mind and body effectively and relaxes it.
- Helps harmonise the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
- Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
- Maintains body temperature.
“Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation and surrender to God”
When doing Nadhi Shodhana I do 16 breaths as its recommended to do 15 but also to always start and end on the left nostril. When I started I began to inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 then hold for 4, before repeating the sequence. After practising for over a yer daily I have worked up to an 8 sequence (inhale for 8 etc).
After doing Nadhi Shodhana I move straight onto the next technique, Kapali Bhati or skull shining. This is heating for the body and strengthens the uddiyana bandha. The practice consists of forcefully exhaling out of the nose. The inhale will come automatically imagining the energy that’s just been released washing up and over you, shining both the 3rd eye and crown chakras. I started with 15 of these breaths, then moved onto 30 and now manage 45.
Next comes Agni Sara Dhauti or fire wash breath. First you inhale then holding the inhalation pull in the belly button towards the stomach as many times as possible before you need to inhale again. This is great for digestion and tones the abdomen area.
Finally I end with the Ashwini Mudra or horse lock. Inhale and exhale fully then with no breath contract and release the pelvic floor and anus muscles, again as many times as possible before you need to inhale again. This breath is good for bringing things down, for example feces, menstruation or in birthing.
After these 4 pranayama techniques I am ready for my meditation practice. It’s incredible the difference I feel after practicing pranayama and then meditation. The meditative state seems to come much easier with less time spent settling in and going inward. It happens almost instantly and results in a much deeper, healing meditation