I recently expanded my knowledge of a technique called Prana Yama – the practice of mastering of our life force by controlling our breath. When we learn to control our breath, and more importantly hold empty with control, we suspend our consciousness, taking us into realms we normally can’t access. We gain more ways to tangibly feel our consciousness kick and scream!
Prana Yama has the power to take us on a journey into our subconscious, and it’s magic for re-routing energy at a cellular level:
It is the alchemy for connecting our conscious to our subconscious.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for Energy, life force, and it comes from everything: what you eat, where you go (nature), essential oils, spiritual places, all these things hold a charge.
Here’s some science: Free radicals & pollutants can steal our energy. Prana can fill those gaps. Prana is a negative ion on the O2 molecule, an extra electrical charge, so when it comes into contact with a free radical it balances the charge and cancels it out. It’s also been proven that disease cannot survive in a highly oxygenated environment.
The complete yogic breath is key to this practice, and here’s how you do it. And as promised, there’s also three techniques at the bottom for you to try. It’s a lot of words, but I promise it’s worth it.
BASIC BREATH TRAINING, courtesy of Jenika Bronson
The system of complete yogic breathing is key to obtaining the multifold benefits of a yoga practice. Working with simple breathing exercises helps oxygenate the body, brings energy to all the muscles, organs and glands, revitalizes and relaxes the mind and the entire nervous system.
Taking time every day to practice these exercises in a clean and quiet environment will help bring about quick and noticeable improvements in all areas of the physical body and have a calming effect on the mind.
Some key points before beginning the breathing practices:
*The breathing in yoga is done in and out through the NOSE. This allows for oxygen and energy to circulate to the brain and nervous system and not just to the lungs. It is very healing and awakening and begins a biofeedback process between the body and the environment outside.
*If you are a smoker, please refrain from holding your breath as this will push all the toxins from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Instead, keep up with deep breathing and cleansing breaths (Inhaling through the nose and exhaling forcefully through the mouth) to help loosen up the lining of the lungs and begin a cleansing process.
*Always practice these breathing exercises in a well-oxygenated environment free from heavy scents, pollution, or dirt/dust/mold.
Part I ABDOMINAL BREATHING – “The Buddha Belly”: 30% of capacity
Energetically, this works with the 1st (root) and 2nd (sacral) chakras
The first step of yogic breathing is working with the abdominal breath. This breath helps bring energy and oxygen to the lowest lobes of the lungs and stimulates all the lower abdominal organs and glands. This breath is excellent to practice if you are suffering from abdominal tension, constipation, liver, kidney, spleen, or pancreatic problem. Also, practicing this breath on a daily basis will act as a preventative for these same issues.
Find a comfortable sitting position (cross-legged, sitting on your heels, or simply with your legs stretched out in front of you). If all of these positions are too uncomfortable, this breath can be practiced standing up. However, for best results a sitting position is recommended.
Bring your right hand to your abdomen. As you inhale, see if you can direct the air into your abdominal area as though there were a balloon inflating in your stomach. Feel your abdomen pressing against your hand. As you exhale, draw your abdomen back toward your spine. Inhale, belly expands, Exhale, belly draws in toward spine. Repeat for 5-10 deep breaths.
Part II MID-CHEST BREATHING – 60% of capacity
Energetically, this works with the 3rd (solar plexus) and 4th (heart) chakras
This breath is also known as the “bellows breath” and works to laterally expand the ribcage energizing the heart, lungs, and upper abdomen. It is the section of the breath that tends to be the most locked-up and might take a bit of patient effort to get a sense of the movement in the beginning. Working with this section of the breath is excellent for smokers, people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems, high-cholesterol, clogged arteries and to prevent and alleviate heart conditions.
Find a comfortable sitting position. To get a sense of this breath, place one hand on either side of the ribcage just below the chest. As you inhale, feel the ribs expand out to the side like an accordion. As you exhale, feel the ribs squeeze back into center.
Once you feel connected to the lateral motion, apply gentle pressure to your ribs as you exhale to get a sense of all the air being squeezed out of the lungs. Repeat this breath 5-10 times.
Part III UPPER-CHEST BREATHING – 10% capacity
Energetically, this works with the 5th (throat) chakra
This section of the breath tends to be the most natural for people and consists in the gentle rise and fall of the upper chest. This breath brings air to the uppermost part of the lungs and sends energy to the thyroid gland, the heart, lymphatic system and into the head and brain. Excellent for relaxation and stress-relief.
Bring right hand to collarbones. Inhale, feel upper chest rise (can lift shoulders as well), exhale, allow shoulders and chest to relax. Repeat for 5 -10 breaths.
Apply gentle pressure to upper chest to get sense of resistance as the air moves into the upper lungs. Repeat for 5-10 breaths.
THE COMPLETE YOGIC BREATH
The complete yogic breath is key to the yoga practice and consists in stringing together the 3 sections of the breath we have just learned. Remember to breathe in and out through the nose. With the inhale, we begin by bringing air to our abdominal area, moving it up to the mid-chest and then all the way into the upper lungs.
As we exhale, we draw in the abdomen first, then the mid-chest and then the upper-chest. This creates a wave-like motion with the breath and ensures that air gets into all the lung cavities and also that it gets expelled fully. If this breath feels a bit strange at first, be patient and know that with a bit of practice it will become quite natural.
Inhale: Belly, Mid, Upper. Exhale: Belly, Mid, Upper. Repeat 5-10 times.
Start your day with 7 Buddha, 7 Mid, 7 Upper and 7 full yogic breaths.
The cleansing breath is a technique to be used as a way to quickly get CO2 out of the body, and is quite purifying physically and psychologically. If you have been doing vigorous exercise or simply feel a bit winded, this technique will help bring your respiration to a normal rate and allow your cells to re-oygenate. This breath is also excellent to practice daily for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems as it helps keep the airways clear. Again, practice this breath in a clean environment.
Step 1: Take a full inhale into all 3 parts of the lungs.
Step 2: Blast the air out through the mouth, curling the head and shoulders down and feeling the diaphragm contract pushing all the air out of the lungs.
Step 3: Repeat 3-6 times and then return to the complete yogic breath for 5-10 deep breaths.
SELF-PRACTICE BREATHING TECHNIQUES
Imagine Prana Yama to be like a combination lock – when you punch in the right numbers, doors will open.
By practicing measured breathing techniques we gain conscious control over something that’s usually done unconsciously.
Our breath really connects with our emotional states, so here are some combinations for you to try:
This is great for anxiety, or when there’s too much energy that doesn’t know how to be…
Using your full yogic breath, you can calm your nervous system within a minute. Best done lying down, with your head to the North.
- Inhale for a count of 8*
- Hold for a count of 4*
- Exhale belly first for a count of 8
- Hold empty for a count of 4
*always a ratio of 2:1
Duration: 5-10 minutes, or as needed. Best before bed.
2. MEDITATION & ESOTERIC TECHNIQUES
Plugs you in on a mental level and great for concentration. This rhythm helps to run a current through your chakras, and is perfect for 3rd eye meditations. Can be done sitting, but best done lying down during deep relaxation meditation.
- Inhale for a count of 7
- Hold for a count of 3
- Exhale for a count of 7
Lying down, focus on your third eye and increase the rhythm to 9, holding for 3, exhaling for 9 for a few breaths. Then increase again to 11, 3, 11, and finally to 13, 3, 13. After a few breaths, come back down to 11, 3, 11, then 9, 3, 9, then 7, 3, 7, and finally return to your normal rhythm, continuing to focus on your 3rd eye.
Duration: 5-10 minutes, as you like.
You don’t need to do 7/3/7 (or full yogic breaths) during normal meditation practice, but you can use 7/3/7 to plug you back in if you become distracted.
3. NASARGA BASTRIKA or FIRE BREATHING
Great for self-confidence, firing ourselves up, breaking bad habits. It works with your solar plexus, your sun centre, and taps into your will power. It creates a lot of energy, and it’s best to plant a happy seed whilst doing it. It’s excellent for breaking any heavier denser self-pity feelings. It also flushes out your lungs really well.
NB people with high blood pressure or pregnant women should take care with this!
- Hands to mid-chest
- 40* x sped up mid-chest breaths (with life) with a forced out-breath
- 4 full yogic breaths
- Hold on the last breath (to add voltage and pressure)
- Slowly release
*this can be done 40 times, 54 or ultimately 108.
Duration: once is enough!
Recommendation: start your day with this: FULL YOURSELF UP WITH PRANA such that you can meditate and just observe your breath full of Prana/energy.
Just breathe, and enjoy!