I'm so excited to share this post with you as there is so much more to yoga than the physicals and the asanas. I asked Leila to share this piece as she has a vast knowledge from a background of yoga, meditation, dance and capoeira. Without breath we wouldn't exist. Prana is the force that keeps us alive. Pranyama is the regulation of breath through certain exercises and techniques.
According to the yoga tradition, prana (life force) rules the five senses but also over the whole body. Life force, is the vital energy that keeps us going, it is in us, around us, when we speak, walk, eat… It is everywhere. Is the energy that travels through breath. According to Swami Rama “the air we breathe becomes a means of supplying the vital force, and that is how we live. It is true that breath is life”. When we have a healthy lifestyle, our vital energy flows in our body through the energy channels smoothly. However when we become stressed, anxious, and have an imbalanced lifestyle, our body start getting blockages, which do not allow the smooth flow of the vital energy that is crucial to the functioning of our organs, and mind.
Pranayama techniques are unique and can be of great benefit to those walking the path of light.
The techniques are highly effective and their efficacy may be fully appreciated when practiced with commitment and discipline.
Often beginners focus on asanas, without understanding much about the importance of the pranayama exercise, which affect the whole body and mind. When one starts to practice the basic breathing exercises for some time, one realizes the importance of these enticing techniques that may appear simple, and elegant.
It is useful to understand the meaning of Pranayama.The Sanskrit word “pranayama” is divided into two words—prana, meaning “life force” or “life energy,” and yama, meaning “control.” Pranayama is the yogic science of controlling the life force, primarily through the skillful and trained manipulation of breath. It regulates the three processes of exhalation, suspension and inhalation, establishing control over prana the vital force of the body.
One of the aims of the practices is to obtain conscious control of the autonomic nervous system through breath regulation. It is also a process intended to help one remain unaffected by disturbing thoughts and to keep the mind and body in good health. Some of the benefits are improved mood, reduction in stress and anxiety, feeling grounded.
Breath is the most vital process of the body. As it influences every cell and most importantly Breath and mind are closely linked , influencing and affecting each other.
Most of us do not breathe fully, or with full capacity. Breath tends to be shallow as we often only expand the upper chest, missing out on the depth of the breath that covers the front body, the sides and the back. Stress, past trauma, tensions caused by fast paced lifestyle, often lead to shallow breathing and even unintentionally holding the breath.
Below is a simple breathing technique, that is meant to equalize our breathing and the strengthen the respiratory muscles. While breathing avoid quick, jerky movements. Do not strain your facial muscles or any part of your body, and do not constrict the nose to make a sound.
Make sure to practice slowly, gently and within your capacity. Overdoing, or pushing beyond your capacity can cause further energy imbalance.
Pranayama: Equal breathing
Find yourself a quiet uncluttered place with fresh air and free from external disturbance.
Take a comfortable seated position. Keep you back and neck in an up straight position, with hands comfortably on your thighs. Close your eyes, bring your attention to the flow of your breath, and allow calmness to come to your mind.
Technique: Start by breathing out completely without force. On your next inhalation with a controlled and rhythmic inhalation from the abdomen up to the chest and it expands and is full.
At the end of inhalation start with a controlled and rhythmic exhalation relaxing the upper muscles of the chest down to the abdomen.
The number of counts for each inhalation and exhalation should be the same. The main objective of this practice is to equalize these two stages of respiration.
Counting: Do 4 slow and controlled counts for inhalation and the same 4 counts for exhalation. Over a period of time, you may increase the counts to 6, 8, then 10.
Repeat 10 rounds of equal breathing without pause, and then relax keeping your eyes closed, observe the flow of your breath and the effect of the pranayama on your body and mind.
Leila is the founder and owner of Orenda Retreats- a boutique company offering holistic retreats including yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and rhythm movement.
Read more about Leila and Orenda Retreats