Prana: 1. air 2. aliveness Yama: to restrain Ayama: to lengthen
Pranayama: 1. to restrain or increase the flow of air, 2. to restrain or increase the flow of aliveness
(from "Pranayama: a Path to Healing and Freedom" by Allison Gemmel Laframboise with Yoganand Michael Carroll)
Many yogis believe that the most important part of a yoga practice is proper breathing. I have to agree. Intentional breathing practice - pranayama- is one of the most effective ways to move prana (life force energy) through the body. After years of trying to perfect a forearm balance or go deeper into a challenging backbend, the one thing that I always come back to as a source of well-being, inspiration and learning, is my breathing. It has become the most satisfying part of my practice...some days it's my only yoga practice!
To those of you who love their yoga workout with lots of hard poses and a puddle of sweat on your mat this may feel like "non-yoga" to take it easy and just breath. Maybe even a waste of time. But the importance of breath awareness in yoga class can't be overstated and practicing correctly with intention is a must for anyone who wants better health and well-being overall.
The following practice is called Dirgha Pranayama or the Full Yogic Breath. It can be practiced safely anytime and is relaxing, calms the mind and body and allow the mind and body to connect energetically. This is the basic yoga breathing technique that you will want to become comfortable with before moving on to other pranayama forms. Practice Dirgha Breathing daily and notice the difference!
Start your breathing practice sitting comfortably in a chair or lying down on the floor on your back. Breath deeply without forcing the breath, and feel the belly expand and contract with the inhale and exhale. Practice that several times and then continue breathing into the belly and into the side ribs, letting them expand fully. Practice that for several rounds before you move to Full Yoga Breathing.
For the Full Yogic Breath, (Dirgha Breath) continue to fill the belly, side ribs and also the chest as fully as you can without force, but a full, continuous, inhale. Smooth, complete exhale. Make sure you mindfully isolate all three parts; belly, ribs, chest, and allow each area to expand as you inhale in one continuous flow of breath. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then slowly release the breath. Try to exhale slowly and evenly. without rushing to expel the breath. Push every bit of breath out at the end of the exhale. Repeat about 10 times. Spend a few moments observing the body.
Yoga and meditation teacher since 2003, I love discovering and sharing information about natural health and the mind-body-spirit connection through yoga and mindfulness. Join me and be changed for good!