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16 Middlewood, Skelmersdale, Lancs WN8 6SR

Tel: 01695 312295

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November 10, 2017

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Breath: Some Simple Practices

November 25, 2017

“When the breath wanders, the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore one should learn to control the breath.” - Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 15th Century

 

Adherents of yoga have long known the importance of manipulating the breath in order to achieve altered states of mood and consciousness. Although some of the teachings on the subject can be complex, the basics are easy to pick up: As a general rule, lengthening exhalation (or breathing through the left nostril) induces calm, whilst emphasizing inhalation (or breathing through the right nostril) fosters energy. With this in mind, the following practices are interesting to experiment with to see what kind of effects they have.

 

[Note: Exercises are usually performed in repetitive 'rounds', which increase in number as the student becomes more adept. The more rounds, the more potent the pranayama.]

 

Coherent Breath (sitting or lying):

Inhale slowly and evenly through both nostrils for 5 counts, exhale slowly and evenly through both nostrils for 5 counts. After a few rounds, 5 count pauses can be added at both the beginning of the inhalation and at the beginning of the exhalation.

 

Balancing Breath (sitting):

Block the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale slowly and evenly through the left nostril. Block the left nostril with the right index finger and exhale slowly and evenly through the right nostril. Inhale through the right, exhale through the left. Begin again. When practice becomes more familiar, a pause can be taken at the end of each inhalation. A ratio to explore could be inhale 4 counts, pause 4 counts, exhale 8 counts, but these counts can be altered to any degree.

 

Calming Breath (sitting):

Block the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale slowly and evenly through the left nostril. Block the left nostril with the right index finger and exhale slowly and evenly through right nostril. Begin again.

 

Or, keep the right nostril blocked and just breathe in and out of the left.

 

Enlivening Breath (sitting):

Block the left nostril with the right index finger and inhale slowly and evenly through the right nostril. Block the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale slowly and evenly through left nostril. Begin again.

 

Or, keep the left nostril blocked and just breathe in and out of the right.

 

Cooling Breath (sitting or lying):

Roll the tongue into a tube and inhale deeply through it. Relax the tongue, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils.

 

Heating Breath (sitting):

Inhale deeply to prepare, then begin pumping the abdominal muscles in a slow, regular rhythm to forcibly expel air like bellows. Emphasis is on the exhalation. The inhalation takes care of itself. Pumping can be performed in rounds of 20, with a slow controlled inhale-exhale (and possibly a breath retention) in between.

 

Stress-Relieving Breath (sitting or lying):

Inhale deeply, exhale whilst pressing teeth together and humming loudly (can be enhanced by blocking the eyes, ears and nose with the hands on exhalation).

 

Going Against the Flow (sitting or lying):

Inhale deeply and exhale in 3 equal parts (calming) or exhale fully and inhale in 3 equal parts (enlivening).

 

Restricting the Flow (use at any point, including during asana practice):

Add a slight constriction to the windpipe like when sleeping, or as if sighing with the mouth closed. This can be done just on exhalation (calming), just on inhalation (enlivening) or on both phases (balancing). This practice is anecdotally known as 'Darth Veda Breath' because of the sound!

 

Centring Breath (sitting or lying):

Men – inhale up the front of the body from the navel to the third eye, exhale down the back of the body from the third eye to the navel. Women – do this in reverse.

 

Integrating Breath (lying):

Take 3 deep breaths into the front of the body, 3 deep breaths into the back of the body, 3 deep breaths to the right side of the body, 3 deep breaths to the left side, 3 deep breaths to the whole body.

 

Breath to Balance Masculine and Feminine Energy (lying):

Inhale awareness to the feet, exhale awareness to the third eye, tracing the shape of an upward-pointing triangle, symbolizing the Masculine Principle. Inhale awareness to the pubic bone, exhale awareness to the shoulders, tracing the shape of a downward-pointing triangle, symbolizing the Feminine Principle. Inhale awareness to the hands, exhale awareness to the throat (upward triangle). Inhale awareness to the navel, exhale awareness to the nipples (downward triangle). Inhale and exhale with one-pointed awareness at the centre of the chest. Each 'triangular' breath can be repeated 3 or more times before moving onto the next.

 

Breath for Wholeness and Protection (standing or lying):

Inhale, draw awareness up the centre of the body from the soles of the feet to the head. Exhale, draw awareness out through the crown and down the front of the body to the feet again. Inhale awareness up through centre, exhale awareness out and down the back of the body. Inhale awareness up through centre, exhale awareness out and down the right side of the body. Inhale awareness up through centre, exhale awareness out and down the left side of the body. After a few rounds, become aware of the whole body filled with and surrounded by energy and light.

 

Meditative Breath (sitting or lying):

Breathe easily and without strain for a couple of minutes, focusing awareness on the touch of inhalation at the nostrils. Then switch focus to the touch of exhalation at the nostrils for another couple of minutes. Then become aware of the pauses in between inhalation and exhalation for a further 2 minutes. Finally become aware of the wholeness of the breath, inhalation, exhalation and pauses in between.

 

“The practice is simply this: keep coming back to your breath during the day. Just take a moment. This will give your mind a steadiness and your breath a gracefulness.... There’s so much to let go of, isn’t there? Your nostalgia and your regrets. Your fantasies and your fears. What you think you want instead of what is happening right now. Breathe.” - 'Yoga: The Poetry of the Body', Rodney Yee

 

 

Penny Jane Fuller 2017

 

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