The meaning of ‘prana’ is life force and ‘ayama’ is to draw out of extend. Pranayama is a system of breathing exercises which helps you breathe more freely. This is done by removing the emotional and physical barriers to proper breathing. There are many benefits to proper breath-work and avoid over thinking it so yo can dive into your practice.
Pranayama is a technique used to help us use all our lungs. Most of us are chest-breathers, so we only use the top parts of our lungs. Pranayama shows us how to not only use the top parts, but also the middle and bottom parts. This triples the amount of oxygen that our lungs use.
When you begin practicing Pranayama, you will be using the parts of your lungs that haven’t been damaged. This means you will be increasing the amount of oxygen going into your body, which will improve your metabolism. This will improve your ingestion, digestion, and elimination. Your cells will start to heal, and your entire body will start to heal. This is the power of Pranayama.
Beginner’s Guide to the Yoga of Breathing (Pranayama)
I am not going to go into too much detail here but there are a few things we need to remember before we begin practicing Pranayama.
- Clear airways: As this is all about breathing, you need to be able to breathe properly. If you are all blocked up, take the day off.
- Sitting Positions: There are many sitting positions you can adopt for this and most are fine:
- Half lotus
- Full lotus
- Hero pose
- Use a chair: This is not the best way to sit but if you lack flexibility, this is also fine. Just make sure the chair has a straight back and you sit up straight.
- Chin Position: If you are sitting upright, your chin should be in a ‘normal’ position, or you can drop it down a bit. Don’t slouch because if you are, your chin will lift up, which will inhibit good breathing.
Pranayama Breathing Technique
Pranayama is all about breathing and the diaphragm. By training yourself to breathe more deeply, you will be using more of the lungs and improving the health of your entire body.
It is not always easy to do this type of breathing so a good way to begin practicing is to start sighing. Let out all your breath in one big sigh, hold it for a few seconds, and then take in a nice big breath. Do that 10 – 12 times to get things going. Then, get into one of the above sitting positions that is comfortable. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Allow your abdomen to relax so your diaphragm moves down. Allow your chest to expand. Breathe in as deeply as possible. Now, exhale breathing out through your nose, and pull in your abdomen. This will help you empty the bottom part of your lungs. As your diaphragm moves up, the middle parts of your lungs will empty. Finally, allow your chest to deflate. In this way, you use all your lungs.
It is important to practice this to get it right. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly straight away. Keep practicing and you will be breathing the yogic way.