Pranayama

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By Stacee Finkelstein

Pranayama is defined as the regulation of the breath through certain exercises and techniques. Many of don’t pay attention to our breath. Imagine taking a second out of your day to focus on how your inhalations and exhalations feel. Now, imagine focusing on your breath awareness in a more specific way, like the dance of your breath? That is pranayama. There are many benefits to all forms of pranayama, including greater focus on the present moment, allowing oneself to have greater awareness of the body and breath during your yoga practice, cooling the body, and allowing our minds to become more relaxed, calm, and balanced. Below are a few different types of pranayama for you to try during your yoga or meditation practice.

Ujjayi Pranayama/Ocean breath

This breath is generally used in vinyasa yoga, as we link breath and movement throughout the practice. In a comfortable seated position, begin to inhale and exhale out through the mouth. Once you begin exhaling, constrict the passage of air from the back of the throat. This phase can be similar to fogging up glasses. After some practice, begin to apply the same constriction and toning of the throat when inhaling. You’ll start to notice that your breath is now starting to sound like waves of an ocean. Keep practicing, and even begin to apply this during your asana practice.

Three-Part Breath/Dirga Pranayama

This pranayama is wonderful to practice while lying flat on your back. To begin three-part breath begin by relaxing the whole body and face, with the eyes closed. Begin with natural inhalations and exhalations, use these inhalations and exhalations to keep your mind focused from distractions. When you start to inhale from your nose, fill up the belly with your breath. Imagine expanding the belly with air like a balloon. On each exhale, let the air out of your belly from your nose. To ensure that the belly is empty of air, make sure that your draw your belly into your spine. . On the next inhalation, do the same inhalation of filling up the belly with air . Once the belly is full, draw in a little bit more breath into the body. Let that air expand into the rib cage. This should cause the ribs to widen apart. On the exhalation, release the air from the rib cage, letting the rib’ slide closer together, and finally drawing the navel back towards the spine to release air from the belly. After repeating this deep breathing for about five breaths, begin to fill up the belly and the rib cage with air once again. This time, however, draw in a little more air ad let it fill the upper chest. This breath is now going all the way up into the collarbone,. This causes the ares around the heart, or the heart center, to expand and rise. During your exhalation, let the breath release from the upper chest, allowing the heart to sink back down, then release air from the rib cage, allowing the ribs to slide closer together. Finally release air from the belly.

Alternate Nostril Breathing/Nadi Sodhana

To begin, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. You’'ll start by using your right hand. With your right hand, fold your pointer and middle fingers into your palm. This leaves your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger sticking up. This is also known as a Vishnu Mudra. You’’ll then bring your thumb to the right side of your nose, while your ring finger is at the left side. With your thumb, close off your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril.Close off your left nostril with your ring finger. Open and exhale through your right nostril. Than inhale through your right nostril. Close off your right nostril with your thumb, and open and exhale through your left nostril. Then inhale through your left nostril. Continue this breath cycle for about 5-10 times.