Breath Yoga – Simple Yet Effective Pranayama Exercises to Improve Your Yoga Practice
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“The mind is the king of all senses and The breath is the king of the mind”
– Shri B.K.S. Iyengar
No one can deny the power of mind or the breath in doing competitive sports or excelling in any physical activity that requires endurance and concentration before one can achieve excellence.
This is why it is crucial to keep in mind that within the practice of yoga, Pranayama or breath yoga is also an important aspect as it represents almost 12.5% of the practice. Thi is emphasized by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras and its benefits are beyond what the mind can perceive.
Here, we are sharing two simple Pranayama exercises along with their benefits in the field of sports as well as other aspects of the daily life:
Image credit: Hindustantimes.com
A cleaning or purification breath exercise, its benefits surpass much beyond just cleansing. The human body is supposed to be breathing from the complete diaphragm (which includes the chest area + stomach area). This full breathing, which is also referred to as Yogic Breathing, ensures that our body receives the optimum level of oxygen.
In our daily lives, due to stress and various other emotions, we often alter our breathing and this usually results in breathing only from the chest area instead of using the entire diaphragm. So, what happens to our stomach area as a result? Well, the likely scenario is that instead of oxygen, our body stores Carbon Dioxide (CO2 or stale air being released by our body cells). In Ayurveda & Yoga, we believe this very air is the root cause of imbalance between the elements (Air – Vata, Pitta – Fire and Kapha – Earth & Water) and is the root cause of all diseases.
Keep in mind that in this particular breathing exercise and any other pranayama, focuses on the exhalation much more than inhalation. Here, we use our force to breathe out completely making sound with our nose so that everyone can hear us. This movement has to be accompanied with forcing the stomach in – or ‘tucking’ it in. No conscious breathing in should happen, instead, we keep focusing on exhaling and making exhaling sound from our nose.
Doing Kapal Bhati (which literally means ‘shining face’) purifies our nadis – nerves of the Pranic Channel (also referred to as the Electromagnetic Channel) of our body. It increases blood flow in the face and eyes, removes the stale air from our body. And as we take a break between two Kapal Bhati sessions, it re-distributes fresh oxygen throughout our body. It brings balance between the Vata, Pitta and Kapha and thus removes the root cause of all diseases. For athletes, it calms the mind down, gives fresh energy, expands the capacity of lungs to hold more fresh air and oxygen and thus enabling them to improve his/her stamina.
Focus, stamina and a stronger lung capacity to push beyond our limits using the fresh oxygen is the key advantage for athletes and non-athletes.
Video credit: OnlyMyHealthYoga YouTube Account
Image credit: Dycnikora.org
Also known as the Alternate Nostril Breathing (The advanced version) where we put the left hand in Gyan Mudra (or Knowledge Mudra) and the right hand in Vishnu Mudra is one of the most important breathing exercises whose benefits may sometimes exceed a whole session of physical yoga asanas. In this advanced version, (Not recommended for people with high blood pressure), we place our right thumb over our right nostril, and we breathe in air from left nostril starting with a count of 4 (inhale). We then close both nostrils (hold the breath for a count of 16 ) and exhale out of the right (count of 8). Repeat the cycle. Then, you can proceed to inhale only from the right nostril this time, while keeping the left closed for a count of 4 and close both nostrils (count of 16) and exhale through the left nostril for a count of 8.
The right hand is in Vishnu mudra where we use the thumb, fold the first two fingers down and use the third finger to coordinate closing and opening of nostril along with the thumb.
So basically in this version of Anulom Vilom we are breathing in for 4 counts, holding breath for 16 and exhaling twice the inhale ( 8 counts).
Video credit: Silpa’s Yoga YouTube Account
As we practice this breathing exercise consistently, it will purify our nadis, get rid of CO2, increase the blood increase in eyes and sinus area, and most importantly bring a balance between the HA (The sun energy in our body) with the THA ( The moon energy inside our body) that also corresponds to the left and right sides of the brain.
Doing the Anulom Vilom movements will immediately regulate the breathing, bring calmness and balance emotion with rational thinking. It also increases the oxygen content of our body by replacing the CO2, with fresh oxygen and thus giving us more energy and inner strength.
Through consistent the breath and yoga training, yogis will truly have an understanding the power of the breath over the mind. As physical movements of yoga enable us to control our breath, the Breath helps us gain control over the ever-expanding, ‘jumping wild monkey’ mind. The breath is the medium for Life Force Prana (to enter and exit our body). As we go deeper in Pranayama – we will be able to further purify our nadis and this leads to provoking the Kundalini to awaken. From being fresh and calm to having a better breathing all the time, Pranayama helps the mind calm down and makes it easy for us to go deeper in the practice of yoga represented by the practice of Dharana (Concentration) and Dhyana (Meditation).
Keep in mind that without practices that lead us into meditation or helps us to withdraw our attention and senses from outside world to inside (Pratyahara ) – no physical yoga practice would enable one to undergo a complete personal transformation.
Been wanting to learn more about pranayama as well as other aspects of yoga beyond asanas? There’s no better way to do so than to go on a yoga retreat in India, the beautiful country where it all began!