Pranayama Practice: How to usreathe Like a Yogi and Increase Your Inner Peace
Pranayama often gets translated as breath control.
If we break the word down, prana means life force. Life force is not the same as breath, but you cannot have prana without breath. Prana rides on the breath. Yama means to control or direct.
Prana means life force. Life force is not the same as breath, but you cannot have prana without breath. Prana rides on the breath. Yama means to control or direct.
Here’s another part of the process and the translation we should look at. We can also break pranayama into prana and ayama. Ayama means to stretch or expand.
So in pranayama we are controlling and directing the life force and often times stretching it. We might even say that these techniques aid in our own expansion and liberation in our karmic journey.
There is a saying you might have heard that the yogis believed you only get so many breaths per lifetime. Learning to stretch the breath is important for a long life.
There are also everyday benefits of learning to stretch and expand the breath as well.
When you fall asleep, or if you’ve watched someone sleeping, you might notice the breath gets slower, calmer and there might even be a space or pause between the breaths. When the mind slows down so does the breathing.
The really helpful part of the equation is that it works the other way as well. When we manipulate the breathing and slow it down, we can slow down the busyness in the mind. That’s really powerful. The practice of controlling and lengthening our breath – and life force – can aid in decreasing anxiety, anger and nervousness.
The practice of controlling and lengthening our breath – and life force – can aid in decreasing anxiety, anger and nervousness.
So, this should be no problem, right? You breathe all day long. However, if you are in a situation that is causing anxiety it will most likely be difficult to access the technique in that moment if you have never practiced it before.
If you practice paying attention and controlling your breath each day on your mat in a safe space, it will be much easier to access when you are in traffic, in an argument or in an uncomfortable situation.
There are many different pranayama techniques and they are often taught a little differently from teacher to teacher. I always recommend asking why you are doing something a certain way as it might need to be altered a bit to benefit a specific student. Many times what we are practicing in yoga class are breathing techniques before the actual yogic pranayama. These are important to start to build your awareness and direction.
Know that while many times we are told that breathing one way might make us feel calm or energized, every one in different. Notice what the effect is on you in that moment. Like asana, every technique might not be appropriate. If a certain pranayama or exercise makes you feel light- headed, dizzy, or anxious, stop the technique. If you are pregnant, do not practice Kapalabhati, Bastrika or use retention.
Lie on the floor on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent. You can close the eyes or focus on one spot on the ceiling. If possible breathe in and out through the nose.
Begin to notice your inhale and your inhale.
Does the air feel warm or cool?
Is your inhale longer or is your exhale longer?
(There is not a right or wrong answer. Just observe)
Follow you inhale to the very top and watch as it moves into the exhalation.
Follow the exhale to the very bottom and watch it turn into the inhalation.
Watch the circle of breath for 6 – 9 rounds on your own.
When you finish take another inhale and when you get to the top see if you can take a bit more in. Then exhale and when you get to the bottom of the exhalation see if you can squeeze a little more out. This should not feel dramatic or extreme. You are just lengthening each side of the breath a comfortable amount. Do this 6-9 times on your own. In between each lengthened breath, take a normal breath.
When you are finished observe you breathing as it returns to its natural rhythm for a moment.
Slowly roll to one side to sit upright. Notice how you feel. Tuck your chin into your chest. Blink the eyes open and focus on a point on the floor. Slow let you gaze lift and take in the rest of the room.
April Puciata has been teaching in NYC, Washington DC and New Jersey for over 15 years. The founder and creator of Beyond Om, she has taught trainings throughout the US and leads retreats all over the world. She is passionate about yoga, travel, writing, seva, and helping students stay inspired. She is honored to be offering the first 200 hour teacher training in Cuba at Mhai Yoga Retreat Center in June of 2018. For more information about April you can visit her website aprilyoga.com and follow her in Instagram @aprilyoga_beyondom and Facebook at April (Puciata) Yoga.[/box]
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