Wednesday, 5 October 2011

lovely breathing

One super-important part of the yogic path is breath control. It's called pranayama. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words: Prāna, meaning life force or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and āyāma, to extend, draw out, restrain, or control. Pranayama is, essentially, using techniques to control the breath, or vital life force.

There are many different techniques that can be explored, and each one brings about a different effect in the body and mind. Some pranayama techniques can build heat and fire in the body, by accelerating blood circulation in the body. Some techniques bring stillness to the mind and reduce tension. Some techniques bring stillness and calmness to the nervous system.

I'd like to share some thoughts and a bit of teaching about one technique today, called Nadi Sodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. This is considered a balancing practice, which stimulates equally, the left and right side of the brain. Yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the body. It can improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, increase your mental abilities, and soothe your nervous system. Like to try it?

First, sit in a comfortable cross-leg position. Close your eyes and allow your awareness to draw inward. Allow your left hand to rest gently on your left knee.
Bend your right elbow, bringing your hand beside your face. Bend your first two fingers toward your palm, so the thumb, ring finger and baby finger are extended in the air.
Bring your hand toward your face. Place the thumb just above your right nostril, and your ring finger above your left nostril. You will use the thumb to close your right nostril, and your ring finger to close your right nostril.

Before closing either nostril, inhale deeply, sensing the air coming in through both nostrils equally, and gently exhale, feeling the air leaving through both nostrils. Begin to develop a breath where the inhalation and the exhalation are the same length, maybe 5 or 6 seconds long. Try to keep this equal breath, as it will bring greater balance to the process.
After several balanced, equal breaths, gently close the right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Then close the left nostril, opening the right, and exhale through the right nostil.
Inhale through the right nostril. Then close the right nostril, opening the left, and exhale through the left nostril.
Continue with this rhythm - inhale through the left, exhale through the right; inhale through the right, exhale through the left.

Continue this for several cycles, working your way up to several minutes.
To end, make your last exhalation through your left nostril. Then gently release your right hand to your right knee, and come back to that equal breath, slowly inhaling through both nostrils, and exhaling through both nostrils. Do this a few times, feeling the energy and balance in your body and breath.

Keeping your eyes closed, just become aware of how your body and mind feels differently than it did before your began. Do you feel calmer, quieter? Do you notice a greater sense of balance? Do you, perhaps,  feel relaxed, and also energized? I use this technique off my mat, when I feel anxious or unbalanced. I've used it just before an interview. I've used it when I feel anxious about a relationship. I often teach it in my classes, after savasana, to bring students to a place of balance and quiet, before they leave the yoga room to head back to the busyness of their lives. I find it so healing and soothing and lovely. I encourage you to try it. I dare ya! And if you do try this technique, I'd love for you to leave a comment as to how it affected you!

Namaste, dear friends!

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