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Pranayama : Natural Mental Energy Booster?

Updated: Jun 15, 2020



“When you own your breath nobody can steal your peace” anonymous.



Who wouldn't like to come home after a long day at work and have extra energy for what matters? For example, finish a home project, play with your kids, head to the gym, attend a motivating class or meet a friend without feeling that you have been runover by giant plow machine. Does this sound familiar?

Pranayama is the regulation of the breath (prana means life force, yama means regulation).Breathing exercises are not a new-age therapy, it's been around for centuries and its origins are rooted from eastern traditions. Prana is the life force and pranayama increases our digestive fire, also known as Agni. Breathing exercises also opens the mind, oxygenates the brain, increases Ojas (immunity), and improves mental clarity. Therefore, pranayama exercises helps with concentration in any area of your life that you would like to improve, helps to quiet your mind and to regulate strong emotions.

What is the best time to practice?

Morning fresh air is the best time to practice pranayama between 8:00-9:00 am. According to the circadian rhythm, this is the best time of alertness to initiate this routine. It is best performed sitting in a comfortable posture.


Here are four practices for you to explore:

Skull-Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)

Sit at the edge of a chair; take a deep breath, then release it. Next inhale and exhale forcefully, breathing in and out rapidly with the emphasis on the exhalation, like blowing your nose. The inhalation and abdominal movement will happen spontaneously. Finish by deep inhalation and exhalation. Begin with two rounds of 20 exhalations perround and adjust according to your capacity. When you feel ready, go up to 100 exhalations per minute.

Benefits

  • It detoxifies the respiratory system and massages and oxygenates the inner organs with fresh blood.

  • It is good for the prostate and ovaries, forming new blood cells, liver function, brain and immunity.

  • Helps to tone up the abdominal muscles, reduce abdominal fat.

  • Clears anger and heat from stagnant pitta (heat) stored in the liver.

  • Before meditation, it improves concentration and helps to pacify the mind.

Contraindications: avoid during menstruation and pregnancy.


Alternate Nostril Breathing

Place your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril, resting your middle and index fingers on your forehead. Then, close your left nostril with your ring finger of your right hand and breathe out through the right nostril. Then, breathe in through your right nostril, replace your thumb over the right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril. Repeat 12 – 30 times. This can have the effect of balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

Benefits

  • Improves mental clarity,

  • Aids concentration and perception.



Bee Breath (Brahmari)

Sit down, lift both arms and place each thumb inside your ears, with your index fingers over the center of your forehead (third eye) and the other finger over your eyes. Breathe in deeply and exhale HUM (sound like a bee). This sound vibrates the throat, thyroid and heart, and helps keep them healthy.

Benefits

  • Repeat for 7 – 17 rounds. • ‘Bee’ breath is good for the pituitary & pineal glands, including the endocrine system.

  • It quiets the mind and prepares for meditation.


Ocean Breath

Also known as Victorious breath, Ujjayi breath, andresembles the sound of the ocean waves. The following are a few guidelines for Ujjayi breath:

  • Sit comfortably, where your sit bones are grounded and bearing even weight on both sides

  • Have your knees no higher than your hips.• Stack your head over your neck, neck over shoulders, four corners of ribs stacking 4 corners of hips.

  • Perceive equal length in both sides of your body, spine feels lifted and tall.

  • Chin is parallel to the ground.

  • Rest one hand on your lap/ thigh.

  • Palm facing up or down and the other hand at the same height and in front of your mouth, palm facing towards you.

  • With your mouth open, exhale into your palm, like steaming up a mirror and feeling the warm breath on your palm.

  • On your next inhale, keep the hand where it is, breath in, making that same sound.

  • Practise this for up to 10 cycles (4 counts in, 4 countsout, 10 times).

  • When you feel comfortable, move on to closing your mouth on the inhale but opening your mouth on the exhale. Try and maintain the sound with sealed lips.

  • Next, inhale with mouth open and exhale with mouth closed, keeping sensation in your throat and the sound of your breath the same. Do each for 5 – 10 Cycles.

When you feel you want to move on from here, relax your hand and begin Ujjayi Pranayama. With a stopwatch, time yourself for two minutes or chose how many cycles of breaths you want to aim for (you can try a using a metronome). Again, notice where resistance lies in the breath. Maybe you find the audibility awkward, equalising the volume of your breath on both inhaling and exhaling difficult. Or you notice the discrepancy of ease between in-breath and out-breath. Notice where you need to focus and what you need to practise on. I recommend shortening the longer breath to meet the shorter breath if they are unable to stretch the breath evenly on both sides. At any point, you shouldn’t feel out of breath or gasping for air. There is absolutely no retention; it's like a continuous sea of waves, no holding, totally fluid and seamless. Equanimous. Once you feel more comfortable,increase up to 12 repetitions at a time.

Benefits

  • It heats the body and brings great joy. Unlike any other automatic nervous system, the breath is a deliberate action that we can influence and master voluntarily, hence transforming our mind landscape.

  • Can influence our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. We can response from a place of awareness and not from a reactive mind by regulating strong emotions.

  • Ocean breath is also tridoshic, which means it can balance all three energies, Vata, Pitta and Kapha from an Ayurveda perspective.

Pranayama can elevate your total mental energy, because it expands your awareness of the present moment, including body sensations, feelings and thoughts.

On the other hand, the same way you exercise

your muscles to get rid off physical tension, mindful breathing is a portal to the mind to stop the regular thinking patterns, it's impossible to have anxious thoughts and practice Ocean breath at the same time. Hence by focusing on your breath to regain mental clarity, aids concentration, tones internal organs, flush toxins out, and pumps fresh oxygen throughout the brain and body, relief stress, in other words, it resets your nervous system allowing homeostasis (stable equilibrium) to unfold in a natural fashion. We become masters of what we practice in life, to see results like any oher discipline: practice, practice, practice..


:"The following material is provided for educational purposes only. Use at your own discretion. If you have a health problem, medical emergency, or a general health question, you should contact a physician or other qualified health care provider for consultation, diagnosis and/or treatment."


Resources

The Ayurveda Bible by Anne McIntyre, Excerpt from Ekhartyoga.com

For personalized Ayurvedic Consultation, Yoga Therapy and Mindfulnes, connect with Monica Daza-Stephan Ayurveda & Yoga Therapist | Phone: 416-275-9141 |info@yogafymylife.com

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