Breathing Exercises

Breath work is used to invigorate, energize and relax the body, mind and spirit.Woman practicing yoga and breathing exercises

Relaxing techniques include such practices as Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath), Long Deep Breathing and Alternate nostril breathing
Invigorating techniques include Breath of Fire (Agni-Prasana) ‘Bellows Breath’ and Kabalabati. These are just a few there are many others to explore.

RELAXING TECHNIQUES

Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)
This is a yogic practice which is done in the sitting position, spine straight, arms raised side ways, elbows bent, eyes closed, peace-sign fingers over the eyes, thumbs in ears. The practitioner then inhales deeply and hums five to ten long hums. The purpose is to block out the outside world and commence the inward journey.

Long Deep Breathing
This is a relaxing practice which is done in the sitting position with spine straight. The practitioner inhales deeply to the count of four, feel the breath expand your abdomen like a balloon. At the end of the fourth count, when you think you can’t take any more air in, take a sip more. Then hold in stillness for a count of four. Then exhale over a count of four….and when you think you have all the air out, huff more out.
With practice your breathing will become deep and sure and the count of four expands to a count of five or six and so on. The purpose is to concentrate on the period emptiness and stillness between the inhale and exhale.

Alternate Nostril Breathing
Raise one of your hands to your face, palm facing it. Put your thumb by one nostril and your forefinger by the other. Gently put your thumb over the nostril, blocking the passage of air through it. Breathe in the other nostril slowly, using the first technique. Hold the in breath for a second, concentrating on the stillness, then exhale. Remove your thumb, and put your forefinger on it’s nostril and breathe in, concentrating on the middle, exhale.
Continue to alternate with one complete inhale/exhale per thumb/finger.
Do this for about eight to ten cycles.

INVIGORATING TECHNIQUES

Breath of Fire (Agni-Prasana) ‘Bellows Breath’
A cleansing & energising breath, powered by abdominal contractions
Once the diaphragm is felt during Long Deep Breathing then there are a couple of ways in which one can begin to do Breath of Fire, where the air is pulled in and pumped out very rhythmically, just like pumping a bellows, without any tension being felt whatsoever on the abdominal muscles, chest and rib cage muscles or shoulders, which remain relaxes throughout the breath, so that it may almost seem that you can continue the rhythm indefinitely with little effort at all.
Sitting with a tall spine in a comfortable seated position, or even lying down.One way to is to start with long deep breathing, then as soon as the lungs are completely expanded, as described earlier, to immediately force the air out, and as soon as most of the air is out to immediately expand the air back in, each time arching the spine forwards and pressing the palms inward against the knees in a light manner to feel the diaphragm filling the lungs from the back to the front completely, then contracting again.
With each breath one expands a bit faster and contracts a bit faster until without expanding or contracting completely, a rhythm is felt, and you let that rhythm take over. You are now breathing rapidly in and out of the nose, mouth is closed and breath is moving rapidly in and out of the nostrils. Your belly is also moving in and out, in and out. The movement is like that of using a bellow to stoke a fire. As a matter of fact this breath is also referred to at times a as breath of fire, as it stoke the internal fire in the body, gets energy moving and invigorates the body mind and spirit. It is important to note that the breath emanates from the belly–this is diaphragmatic breathing not chest breathing and it can be helpful to place one hand gently on the lower belly to feel the breath and belly muscles move and synchronize them.

Begin with 3 rounds of bellows breath, first round of 15 repetitions, second of 25 and last either of 25 or if you feel comfortable you can do 50 repetitions. After each round take close your eyes, place your hands on your stomach and breathe deeply for 5 breaths, emphasizing and elongating the exhale especially to calm the body and circulate the energy you just built.

Kabalabati
Kabalabati is a breathing technique used to cleanse the body, both of mucus and of tensions held in the chest and throat. Some people feel a strong emotional cleansing as well as heightened energy after kapalabati breathing. Kabala means “skull” and bhati means “that which brings lightness.” Kabalabiti breath is very similar to bellows breath but with one important difference, the exhale is active while the inhale is passive–you are shooting the breath out of the nostrils and then allowing only a passive inhale to come in again through the nostrils before shooting the next breath out again through the nostrils. Make sure the face and jaw are as relaxed as possible and that your whole body is not reverberating, only the belly muscles. This will take some time but the effects are well worth it! Begin with 3 rounds of kapalabati, first round of 15 repetitions, second of 25 and last either of 25 or if you feel comfortable do 50. As with bellows breath, after each round close your eyes, place your hands on your stomach and breathe deeply for 5 breaths, emphasizing and elongating the exhale especially to calm the body and circulate the energy you just built. I love to alternate follow either of these exercise with alternate nostril breathing. Bellows and kabalabiti breath stoke the fire within and get energy moving and woken up, alternate nostril breathing allows you to calm down and take that energy you built and slowly calmly distribute it to the entire body for your use and a wonderful feeling of calm and well-being.

 

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