If only we westerners could grasp the idea that the breath is so incredibly vital to living our lives with, well, vitality! Sure, we recognize that sometimes we need to stop and breathe, counting to ten when anger arises, but do we even practice that often? In yogic philosophy, the art of pranayama – or breath control as we’ve come to understand it – teaches us how we can develop power over the mind and body simply by controlling the way we breathe.
The word “prana” refers to a life force or energy that’s all pervading, within us and all around us. When we breathe shallowly or without awareness we fail to maximize the prana we take into our bodies. We also supply the body with less oxygen, which leads to a host of nullifications not the least of which can be lethargy and fatigue. By taking deep and systematic breathing into our lives we can become revitalized.
Here are two techniques of pranayama that you can explore, but let it be known that the power of pranayama is not to be underestimated and many people believe should be explored under the guidance of a learned teacher. These two are simple and safe, and are just the beginning of a journey into your energetic force.
Yogic Breath: Give yourself a few moments of calm and sit down in a way that is comfortable and allows the spine to be lengthened. You can close your eyes and take your attention to your breath. Inhale slowly through the nose all the way down to the abdomen into your pelvis, and fill up the body, expanding the abdomen, then the chest, then the throat. It’s simply deep, conscious breathing. When you can sip in no more, exhale, letting all the air pour out, picturing and feeling the collected energy and breath moving up the spine and out through the crown of the head. See if you can’t let something go, like a thought or worry, along with the breath. Keep it going for as long as you wish.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Sitting in the aforementioned comfy position, let the left hand rest and bring the right hand up, placing your peace fingers at the space between the brow, thumb next to right nostril and ring finger by the left nostril. Exhale through both sides. Then, close the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the right ring finger and removing the right thumb from the right nostril, exhale very slowly through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close it, exhaling through the left. And on and on. Sometimes we don’t know that we’re breathing through one nostril far more than the other, and this brings us into balance, said to balance the right and left sides of the brain and their respective capacities.
Practicing yoga in all its forms is meant to bring us into Oneness, to become embodied. Check out the Fight Fatigue With a Yoga Headstand for another practice to bring you out of tired and into life.