Let’s Breathe

Last month we wrote about how breathing works, this month we’re offering up a few breathing practices for you to try.…enjoy! 

To feel calm

  1. Diaphragmatic Breath– also known as dirga pranayama or three-part breath. This is great for feeling calm, but also oxygenates the blood and nourishes the whole body and brain, and creates better focus and alertness. Lie on your back and bring awareness to your breath in the belly. Feel the rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. Do this a few times and then bring awareness to your rib cage. As you inhale feel your ribs move outward and on the exhale, they draw back in. Do this a few times and then bring awareness to the breath in the chest and feel the movement of the collarbones on each breath. And put it all together…feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, the chest fill, and on the exhale collarbones lower, ribs close, and belly lowers. 
  1. Ujjayi pranayama– also called victorious breath or sometimes ocean breath. This is an audible sound made in the throat that can sound like distant waves, a baby snoring, or Darth Vader. My favorite way to teach the sensation we want to feel in the throat is to hold your hand out in front of you and with an open mouth exhale onto your hand as though you’re fogging up a mirror. On your inhale, imagine pulling that same breath back out of your hand with an open mouth. Then try to create the same sensation with your lips sealed and be mindful to keep your teeth, tongue, and jaw relaxed. 
  1. Alternate nostril breath– also called Nadi Shodhana and can have a profound impact on nervous system regulation. Every 90 minutes or so we have a nostril that is more dominant and one that is more clogged so this brings some awareness to that and can bring clarity and stress relief. If you have a stuffy nose or bad allergies, this can be done by just imaging the closing of the nostrils if that feels more comforting. Use your thumb for the right nostril and ring finger for the left. Exhale completely and close the right nostril, inhale through the left, close the left and release the right, exhale and inhale through the right, then close the right and open the left and inhale and exhale through the left. Continue this for 10-12 cycles. 

To feel Invigorating  

  1. Kapalabhati– also called breath of fire or skull shining breath and is purifying, warming, and cleansing. This breath consists of shorter, more explosive exhales and more passive inhales. The power of the breath is generated from contracting the lower belly on the exhales to push the air out of the lungs. You can start slow and after practicing it might get quicker. Find a seated position and bring awareness to the belly. Take a big inhale, then with short and quick bursts and contraction of the belly exhale out of the nose eight to ten times and then take in another inhale and repeat this cycle.
  1. Breath of Joy– one of my favorites and pretty simple to do and like the name implies, can bring a sense of joy and vital energy. For this you will breathe three semi sharp and quick inhales through the nose and then a long open mouth sigh of relief/release on the exhale. This can be done seated or I love doing it in a wide legged fold (prasarita padottanasna)…as you inhale through your nose let your arms lift straight over head, then out to the side then straight over head again (like big, floppy music conductor arms) and on your exhale fold forward and sigh it out of the mouth.

If you’re interested in learning more techniques or how to offer them to service members, their families, or veterans check out our next teacher training.

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