“Pranayama is the bridge that one must pass over to get from physical consciousness to this divine awareness within.”- Sri Daya Mata
In every form of yoga and meditation exists the practice of Pranayama as it represents the life force inside us: breath. Prana means the energy of life and Ayama means control. Normally, we have no control of our breathing; it occurs automatically as we move about our day. To focus on our breath is to conquer the chaos of life and remove it from our concern. By eliminating the illusion of the body and mind, we allow the soul to come to the forefront. We begin to realize how to truly meditate and experience the benefits of yoga by connecting to the divine spirit that remains hidden in the material world.
Freedom from the senses
More than a yoga breathing exercise, Pranayama, allows you to disengage from the physical world. When we focus our attention outward toward that we what we cannot control with our senses, then stress accumulates. Our energy flow or our chakras become clogged in thought. In order to gain control, inward focus is needed. Instead of using our senses, we can become silent, still, and thoughtless. We can concentrate on that which connects us to this world and provides us life. All our problems that occur on the outside begin within us and how we react to them. So, breathing techniques bring that attention inside, captures it, and dissolves it.
Pranayama deep breathing benefits
When practicing pranayama, you are tapping into your true being: you as a soul stripped of your desires, egos, possessions, and worries. Once you have access to communicate with your soul, you can invoke a sense of peace inside yourself. The worries of the mind and body will lose significance as you face completeness within. Of course, this level of peace is achieved through long hours of devotion toward pursuing enlightenment.
For the beginner, there are short-term benefits to pranayama practice:
- Relief from stress and anger
- Increase in concentration and ability to focus on a task
- Cleared chakras which can prevent health problems as well as anxiety and depression
- Provide a boost of energy
- Make you more positive and authentic
- Help you relax and sleep
- Detox your body
- Improve circulation and calm nerves
Yoga breathing exercises
You are able to practice breathing techniques anytime and anywhere. They can even be included in your yoga session to get deeper into your asanas and to focus your mind inward. Be aware that these exercises are effective and can be strenuous for beginners. Start slow and do not try too much to fast. Begin all the following exercises by finding a quiet place, getting comfortable, by sitting in one of these mediation poses if possible. Take a couple of slow deep breaths and begin your Pranayama with these healing exercises:
This deep breathing pranayama created by Yogananda as part of his Kriya Yoga practice helps you relax and eventually concentrate on your third eye. There are 3 phases through which you slowly disengage yourself from the physical and engage yourself with the intuitive motion of breath.
Technique: All stages will include long, deep breaths with equal inhalations and exhalations. Began with a deep inhalation and think of the word Hong. Exhale with the same amount of force and duration to the word Sau (pronounced saw). Do not chant these words, instead try not to move any muscle when saying them in your mind.
Phase I: You may only be able to focus on the physical motion of your body at this point, which is fine. It will help calm your thoughts and regulate your breathing.
Phase II: Eventually begin to concentrate on the breath alone. As it moves through your body, notice its existence. As it flows through your nostrils, let its weight guide your forehead upward and be aware of your third eye awakening.
Phase III: Began to focus more on how automatic your breathing has become. You can control it, but it is not controlling you. Then, become the breath and realize its ease of movement. Once you feel ready, chant the word Aum and center all your attention on your third eye.
Known as the “skull cleanser” or “the shining forehead” due to the resounding effect it has on your physical appearance and mental clarification, this pranayama is a highly effective detoxifying technique. You can do this breathing exercise in 3 separate repetitions with short breaks in between.
Technique: Take a deep breath in while in a seated position with a straight spine. As you exhale, focus on your stomach reaching your spine. You can use your hand to feel the contraction as your stomach goes inward. Once you inhale again, you will notice the naturalness of the air entering your lungs. Repeat this motion about 20 times while resting completely still in between repetitions.
Used mainly during Hatha Yoga practice, this pranayama can also be performed alone to ease frustration and calm the nerves. Using the natural vibration of your throat, you are able to create an oceanic wave sound that is both harmonically and physically soothing.
Technique: Take a deep breath in through your nostrils, followed by a slow exhalation through the nose as well. When air hits your throat use your muscles to pulse the air as it releases. To create the correct sound, pretend that you are using your breath to fog up a window using a “haaah” method, but instead keep your mouth closed. Notice the control of your inner vibration and its effect it has on your well-being. Let it relax you and know that the power to heal yourself is always available.
Using these yoga breathing exercises to relieve everyday stress can be very useful for many people looking for natural remedies to their improve mental and physical well-being. If you would like to pursue a yogi path toward a higher state of self-knowing, then start with a particular pranayama and devote your time to it. Use it in your mediation and yoga practice daily and discover the extraordinary effects of long-term devotional practice.