The deeper we breathe the more we feel fully alive and inspired to live our life to the fullest. Breath is life! Our whole body needs oxygen to survive, it's the nourishment for each cell, organ, all functions in the body and of course the most important the brain. When we re-remember how to breathe, we begin to slow down, trust, and relax the body and in turn we relax the mind as they mirror one another. Recharge and reduce stress through the practice of pranayama.
The healthier our nervous system, the healthier our body, mind, thoughts and actions. Because we are a reflection of our nervous system, the state of our nervous system dictates how we experience the world. When our body is healthy and the mind alert, as a result our thoughts will be powerful and clear. Our actions, which are manifested thought, will be successful and rewarding. Pranayama strengthens and purifies the nervous system through cleansing the energy channels in the body, called nadi's. Then prana or life-force energy can flow more freely and this creates changes on all levels: physical, emotional and spiritual.
So why practice Pranayama? The quality of our breath influences our state of mind and the state of mind we are in influences the way we breathe. When we are stressed, we tend to hold our breath and this mental or emotional tension translates onto the physical body manifesting in many forms, e.g. headaches, tight muscles in the shoulders and back, wrinkles, shortness of breath, etc. By using Pranayama techniques when we feel stressed, the symptoms can be reduced or eliminated, leaving us feeling mentally and physically refreshed. The benefits are numerous. For instance when we make the exhalation longer then the inhalation it promotes relaxation, there are many ways to use the breath.
As yoga postures prepare the body to sit comfortably without any strain in meditation. Pranayama prepares the mind for the silence and single pointed concentration and awareness required for meditation. It is wonderful to do Pranayama just before meditation; it slowly allows the veils covering our true self to lift, merging with our Divine nature.
Before attempting any particular technique, breathe normally through the nose, without trying to control or change your breathing in any way. As you become quieter, your breath will find its own rhythm and will naturally become steadier and slower and as your flexibility grows through Asana (postures) so will your capacity to deepen the fullness of your breath.
Remember that the breath is directly connected to your nervous system and regulating the breath manipulates both gross and subtle energies. Shallow or agitated breathing signals a stress respons, so if you experience any discomfort when practising Pranayama stop the technique and resume regular, passive breathing.
"When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so the mind is still" (Hatha yoga Pradipika)
Pranayama is about utilizing the breath in order to free the mind. We also use mudras and bandhas in Pranayama.
Mudras are seals, that you hold with the hand and fingers. Mudras help to chanel energy and send it to specific body parts. Mudras represent devotion, unity and concentration. The mudras give a certain divine grace to the posture.
Jnana Mudra symbolises unity. The indexfinger symbolises the ego, being separate from others. The thumb symbolises unity. By connecting these two fingers we receive divine wisdom .
Vishnu Mudra symbolises the Conch of Vishnu, waking us up from the illusion of Maya. The index and middlefinger are tucked into the palm of the hand.
Bandha's The Sanskrit word bandha means "seal "or"lock", it refers to a posture in wich certain organs or parts of the body are contracted or controlled. Bandhas are very important in Pranayama practice to protect the nervous system. In Hatha Yoga we use three bandhas.
Jalandhara Bandha (Chinlock)
Jala means a net. Tucking the chin in and keeping the back of the neck long. Can be engaged in various degrees. Slight JB can be adequate for most pranayamas. Strong JB is used when holding the breath.
You bring the chin all the way down to touch the chest for a tight lock. JB stops too much energy from going up into the head wich can make you dizzy. Strong JB will also stop too much pressure in the head and at the back of the eyes. It also keeps the blood pressure lower.
The use of Mula Bandha lifting the energy and JB sending energy down make for a strong store house of energy within the body that gets released through out the body when the Bandhas are released.
Uddhiyana Bandha (Stomach Lock)
means flying up, it is an abdominal grip. The prana or energy within is made to flow up from the lower abdomen towards the head. The diaphram is lifted from the lower abdomen up into the thorax, pulling the abdominal organs back up, towards the spinal column.
This Bandha gently massages the muscles of the heart, thereby toning them. It also tones the abdominal organs, the gastric fire and eliminates toxins in the digestive tract.
Mulha Bandha (Rootlock)
An engaging and lifting of the perenium in men and the cervix in woman. Can be done very physical or more energetic. It can be engaged in various degrees from very slight to very strong. It lifts the energy up the body, reversing the flow of Apana Vayu wich usually flows down and out (eliminating energy ).
Mulha Bandha protects the groin area, lengthens the lower abdomen and the lower back in Asana. Very important when holding the breath (Kumbaka).
The drawing up of Mulha Bandha is mostly used when exhaling. Can be used or not on inhale, experiment to feel what feels best.
Agni Sari, the fire breath
Right hand in Vishnu Mudra, left hand in Jnana Mudra.
Engage the Mula Bandha (MB) and Jalandhara Bandha (JB) if you are used to that.
Exhale completely, then take a deep breath in and take the right hand up,
block the right nostril with the thumb, breath out slowly through the left nostril.
Then 20 fire breaths through the left nostril with both the inhale and the exhale active,
pulling the belly back and forth.
Then release the right hand to breath in through both nostrils and close the left nostril
with ring and little finger and take 20 firebreaths through the right nostril.
Deeply inhale to the right then exhale through both.
Then 20 fire breaths through both nostrils.
Take one more deep breath in and out (keeping the Bandhas)
then release as you breath in sitting up straight.
Awareness at the navel center, feel how you energyse the digestive fire with this breath
and visualize warm golden light around your solar plexus and radiate
this light all around you expanding your energy field.
* Repeat this whole exercise three times
This pranayama practice activates the digestive fire .
* "Kapalabhati" is passive on the inhale and in "Agni Sari" both the inhale and exhale are active. As a result Kapalabhati is faster .
For more details of different kinds of Pranayama of Yoga Therapy- Anuloma- Viloma, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Sheetali, Shitkari, Suryabhedan and Ujjayi see :www.mothernature4u.com/yogatherapy/pranayama/