3 Breathing Practices to Relieve Tension and Increase Awareness Naturally
By Georgia Tetlow, MD and Jill Maddock, PIM Office Manager
Breath, vital energy, or life force is referred to in many cultures, by different names. “Prana” in Sanskrit, “chi” in Chinese Medicine or “ki” in Japanese medicine traditions. Pranayama translates to the yogic practice of controlling, or mastering, or receiving the true benefits of the breath. When you control the flow of your breath, you are in turn taking charge of your essential mind body connection to uncover pure consciousness and bring about mental clarity. Our breath is under both conscious and unconscious control--when we meditate we bring awareness to an unconscious process, when we do pranayama, we similarly bring consciousness--in this case intention and control--to a normally unconscious process.
As we change our breathing, the rest of the body follows, as does our thought flow and emotional tone. When you regularly practice breath control, with time you may be able to calm your mind, to a deeper and deeper degree.
“Pranayama is the link between the mental and physical disciplines of yoga. While the action is physical, the effect is to make the mind calm, lucid and steady”.
- Swami Vishnu-devananda, Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga
Banyan Botanicals, one of our supplement providers, offers wonderful resources for healthcare providers and patients...find below 3 simple Yogic breaths with instructions and a full explananation. Please note that Kapalabhati and other, more invigorating breaths, are not recommended if you have high blood pressure, a hernia or if you are or could be pregnant. If you have questions, it is best to consult us, your healthcare providers, about practicing pranayama.
3 Types of Pranayama to try:
Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing: this breathing practice brings balance between the right and left side of the brain and for our esoteric readers, ancient traditions suggest that it ‘purifies and cleanses the subtle channels of the mind-body’. This breath involves alternating between inhalation and exhalation as one alternates nostrils. Nadi means “channel or flow” and shodhana means “purification.” See the full instructions from Banyan Botanicals here.
Ujjayi - This is very versatile breath that is frequently used during a yoga practice or at any point during the day to bring one’s center of gravity lower in the body. The ujjayi word derivation comes from ‘ud’ meaning “upward, expanding” and ‘ji’ - “to conquer.” It is also referred to as the breath of victory. See Ujjayi instructions here.
Kapalabhati- Kapala means “forehead” and bhati means “shining.” This breathing practice aims to improve cognitive capacity and improve digestion. It is an excellent wellness practice unless you have high blood pressure, a hernia or if you are or could be pregnant, in which case it is contraindicated--please skip it! It is a more active breath-exercise and is also referred to as “Skull Shining Breath.” See the Banyan handout for Kapalabhati here.
PIM wants to hear from you! Do you have an experience with breathing practices? Do you find this article helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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