by Maggie Anderson
Create space with breath. As you focus only on your breath, your attention to thoughts goes away and you are in the present moment, allowing space and stillness to be there. Breathing, in and of itself, holds the key to our divine connection. For without breathing we would not survive. Become aware of your breath in every moment. Your breath is always in the present. Breath awareness is most powerful and transformational.
Breath is the key to relaxation. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that means lengthening of the prana or breath. Prana is life force or vital energy. Pranayama yoga is a practice of control of breath. Prana itself is the essence and energy of God/Divine itself. It is everywhere. It is in the trees, the flowers, the sun and it is vital to our very survival. That is why we are so linked with Mother Nature.
Ancient yogi’s believed that we are each born with a certain amount of breaths. So as we work towards elongating our breaths or controlling our breathing we elongate our lifespan. Whether the number of breaths per individual life is true or not, conscious breathing is beneficial for our mind, body and soul. Practicing pranayama/breathing technique reduces stress, cleans and clears toxins from the body and so much more.
Time to Breathe… I’ve seen profound results in just breathing through your intention and feeling it. Breathe very deeply in and very slowly out. Use the full capacity of your lungs. Be with the sound and rhythm of your breath. Become aware of your breath and most especially at the tail end of your out-breath. There is a stillness and energy here. Focus on your breath for a time. Feel the energy body within you expand. Breathe and then your focus is on the intention while allowing the energy to flow to you and through you. You are focusing only on the present moment. In this present moment your power resides. When in this present state of mind you can pinpoint and focus on your desired goal. Be focused and enjoy the divine energy flowing to you always. Remember what you focus upon expands. So focus on the positive elements of love, peace and joy as you intend! Enjoy breathing in the present moment!
As stated in Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar, “An emphasis on long inhalation and holding the breath after inhalation intensified the effects of a yoga posture in the chest area and supports the elimination process and has a cleansing affect on the body by enlivening the organs, especially abdominal region. An emphasis on long exhalation and holding the breath after exhalation intensifies the effects of the posture in the abdominal region (energized and heats the body).”
There are a variety of powerful ways that you can practice pranayama yoga to benefit your entire body. The use of pranayama techniques are very beneficial for smoothing out Kundalini symptoms that are too intense. Some forms I have come across are: Quiet breathing, Deep breathing, fast breathing, spinal breathing and many others. When practicing these versions of breathing it is imperative to your health that you do these with proper guidance and follow the instructions given.
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Breath awareness is a beautiful meditation to practice wherever you are. Just breathe and be aware of the breath. Watch your breath. Come into the present moment. As you breathe in, be with the inhale. As you breathe out, be with the exhale. You will find your inner calm a comforting place to be that is strangely familiar. Energy is our life force. It has been called Prana, Chi, Ki, etc. When we breathe we take in oxygen and life force energy to survive. As you breathe in, you are taking in Light and Energy. Let’s call it Light Breathing! Simply be aware that your breath is powerful and causes subtle but noticeable shifts from within. Below you will find several Breathing Techniques.
Long Deep Belly Breaths
Breathe FULLY! Breathe DEEPLY. Breathe long deep belly breaths. Breathe deeply using the full capacity of your lungs and then take time to really feel your stomach filling with air. Feel the rhythm of your breath. Fall into this rhythm and allow it to soothe you. When we were babies we knew how to breathe correctly and fully. Watch a baby breathing. Their belly goes out and in. Stop focusing on how you look and breathe. Feel most comfortable from within. Most of us move into breathing through our chests and lungs still never taking a full breath. So when you become conscious of the power of breath awareness, take those moments to breathe deeply and fully. Even watch your lungs and belly inflate and then deflate. Deep, slow, full breaths are key to really bringing in the energy to your body in beautiful most healthy ways. You will truly feel the difference immediately. This is a process to condition yourself back to breathing healthily and also uplifts the energy. Some yogi’s out there have a goal to have less numbers of breaths per minute. So instead of 20 breaths per minute you can reduce it to four long deep full healing breaths per minute. And you can work your way towards this goal over a long period of time. But don’t worry about the number just breathe fully and deeply. Disease is carried away with the breath and also very good for any lung-related problems. So allow your body to come back to its natural innate breathing rhythm. Do this full breath process and also simply practice breath awareness of natural rhythm breathing without force. Both bring profound results.
I’ve been lucky enough to have attended a workshop to learn a Full-Wave® Breathing technique with Linda Jaros at the Life Breath Wellness Center in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The Full-Wave® Breathing technique was created by Dr. Tom Goode. This is much like I just explained with breathing naturally like a baby but with a new awareness. Breathe in deep through your nose into your lower belly, then your middle belly or diaphragm and then fill your lungs. Then immediately exhale it all out naturally through the mouth. It doesn’t have to be a long slow exhale, just release it out. Let it all go. And without holding your breath at the top or bottom of breaths, keep the flow going. Inhale low in belly to chest, filling your lungs and exhale even with a sigh if you like. Try this technique daily for at least 10 breathe or even for 20-45 minutes (if you have the time) for 30 days. You will be amazed at the results in your body, mind and spirit. Upon the first time trying this technique, my body began to tremble with shakes or tremors. These weren’t like tingles from extra oxygen (that I was receiving also). These were real Kundalini activated trembles and shakes. It was fun to witness. As you do this technique you are, also, working with and rising up the Kundalini energy within you.
Breath of Fire
There is also a yogic Breath of Fire (Agni-Prasana), a cleansing & energizing breath, powered by abdominal contractions. This is a technique to achieve higher states while shedding energy blockages. It’s a fast paced breath that is known for assisting in releasing a lot of negative energies. In this technique you take in fast balanced inhales through your nose and fast balanced exhales out of your nose. This technique of fast sharp breaths removes heavy, stagnant energy from our bodies. A way to assist you in practicing this is to first have your mouth open and stick your tongue kind of like a dog and breathe very fast in and out. Then when you are ready, close your mouth and do this fast breathing through your nostrils. There is no pushing or pulling. You’ll simply feel a pull in your solar plexus area and possibly a root lock feeling at the root chakra level. Remember this is fast breathing in and out of your nose in equal time. Keep the breath equal. Don’t actually try for the Breath of Fire. There is no trying. With Breath of Fire you are natural, easy, fluid and powerful. No pushing or pulling of stomach or diaphragm or chest. Just quick, fast, easy breathing. Find a good rhythm and fall into it. The key to the breath of fire is to let the upper abdomen, the diaphragm truly relax and let the breath breathe you. Breath of fire will speed up the benefit of your yogic exercises.
You can also do this technique standing. Stand, arms easily at sides. Shake your body, really let it all out. Then jump body up and down fast and short in rhythm with your breathing through the nose. This aids in movement and breath while visualizing Kundalini rising if you like. You can also do the Breath of Fire while sitting comfortably and with legs crossed. Hold your arms up, thumbs out, and all other fingers facing in at the first joint. Close your eyes and do the Breathe of Fire for as long as you can, then hold it for longer. Breathing with movement is very powerful. And in movements, such as Yoga, breath is a key factor in keeping rhythm and to, also, achieve what goals you are setting up for the yogic practice. Yoga is has great balancing benefits for incorporating the combination of breath and movement.
Breath of Fire will entirely charge the nervous system, causing the glands to secrete and purify the blood. When it is done with certain postures and movements in yoga, which are meant to put contracting (drawing in) or expanding (releasing) pressure in nerve plexuses and glandular centers, those areas are made to fire and become completely charged.
As an area becomes charged, the sexual (seminal) fluids are released into the bloodstream and flow to those charged areas, so that gradually those areas will maintain that charge and pranic pressure builds throughout the body converting Bindu (Tamasic and Rajasic energy) to Ojas (Satvic energy), which fills and permeates the entire body and mind.
Now, the Breath of Fire is not same as Kapalabati (Kah-pa-la-bhati) breathing, also called the “Cleansing Breath” or “Skull Shining Breath”. It’s easy to get these confused since they both are very powerful and focus on the core with a fire breathing technique. Kapalabati breathing is a forceful breath, where we contract the abdomen, diaphragm and rib cage (pulling on the root lock with each contracting breath), where the simple relaxing of the rib cage brings the air back into the lungs, without inhaling and you force the air out again (also in a rhythmic manner). It has powerful exhales and passive inhales.
Kapalabhati clears the body from the constant intake of toxins, thus detoxifying it. This technique helps to replace any toxic air with fresh air. Practicing this filters out negative and unnatural things held in the frontal lobe. The breathing mainly takes place from the abdomen, as opposed to the chest, and this specifically is what helps to remove the toxic air. Kapala means “the skull” and bhati means “brings lightness.” Kapalabhati helps to make the motions of your diaphragm very easy and controlled. This helps it to discard the muscle cramps present in bronchial tubes. A lot of force is used to do this pranayama. While exhaling, the process is very strong and while inhaling, the process is very calming.
It is also a cleansing technique that places emphasis on cleaning the air passages and blockages in the chest as well as the nasal passage. It helps deter asthma, diabetes, bronchitis and allergies. The breathing exercise purifies the lungs and nasal passages. Breathing in this way lightens your skull by extracting problems like sinusitis. This is an invigorating and energizing practice as it fills your stuffy skull with fresh air. The practice also improves bowel movements which rids the body of the many diseases. Excellent for Respiratory Problems – It is also one of the best exercises for asthma patients and people suffering from respiratory problems. This stimulating breath can do wonders for every single tissue in your body.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Another breathing technique assists you in holding your breath in for a few moments. While you hold your breath you are sustaining the life force within just a little bit longer. This is very healing. One such technique that uses the option of holding the breath is called Alternate Nostril Breathing. Also known as the purifying breath or Nadi Shodhana.
Alternate nostril breathing technique is a yogic technique that I highly recommend to assist you through Kundalini symptoms. Alternate nostril breathing is said to relieve heat and cold symptoms. Practicing this cleanses and rejuvenates vital channels of energy as well as brings a soothing calm. This is also beneficial as a preface to Kundalini symptoms (or side effects) you may experience and will assist in balancing out what would have been a harsh symptom. This breathing technique cleanses the nervous system, clears nasal passage, strengthens the heart and releases mental anxiety.
It is much easier to do this while watching another guiding you. Your hand is held in front of your nose, you will alternate your thumb and pinky finger to block one nostril at a time. Each inhale and exhale is done slowly to the count of four. If desiring a cooling effect, block your right nostril first and breathe in through your left nostril (to the count of 1, 2, 3, 4). Then block your left nostril and breathe out through your right nostril (1, 2, 3, 4). Then block the left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril (1, 2, 3, 4). Leaving your left nostril blocked, breathe in through the right nostril (1, 2, 3, 4). Block the right nostril and breathe out through the left nostril (1, 2, 3, 4). Repeat the cycle of alternate-nostril breathing a few times and end the cycle with an exhale through the left nostril. For a warming effect, begin your first inhale through the right nostril and finish the cycle by exhaling through your right nostril.
Ujjayi Breath (Ocean Breath) Ujjayi (pronounced – oo-ji-ya)
Pranayama is an important part of a Vinyasa yoga practice. Also known as the Ocean Breath, Hissing Breath and Victorious Breath. This pranayama is most often used in association with the practice of yoga poses, especially, my favorite, the Vinyasa style. Vinyasa yoga is breath-synchronized movement, and the breath used most often is Ujjayi breath. Learn this breath while seated in a comfortable cross-legged position. Once you feel confident, begin to use it during asana practice.
Ujjayi breath is breathing only through the nose, while constricting the throat. To begin you can do this with your mount open and hear the hissing sound your breath makes when your throat is tightened. Then close your mouth and that hiss or ocean sound goes more within. Some people like to say it sounds a little like Darth Vador. That might help you understand what it sounds like.
What you are doing is bringing more oxygen into your lungs than a normal breath. The air that comes in through your constricted throat is a powerful, directed breath that you can send into the parts of your body that need it during yoga.
Benefits include: Mind, body and spirit relaxation and calm, lowers blood pressure and treats insomnia.
Choose a meditative posture. Stick out tongue. Roll the sides upward and breathe in through the opening, pulling in as much air as possible. Hold that breath and close mouth. Begin breathing slowly out of your nose.
Benefits include: Good for liver and spleen, treats fever, cools the nervous system and reduces high blood pressure.
Happiness Breath – Sukha Pranayama
Choose a meditating position and begin breathing. Be aware of how the air flows in and releases. As you breathe in, think of happy things, as you breathe out, rid yourself of any worries or tension which is restricting the ability to be happy. Breathe in positive light happy energy. Breathe out and release all that no longer serves you. Breathe in light and exhale dark. Breathe in love and exhale it out to the world.
Your benefits from practicing this breath technique are: Your concentration improves, relieves stress and hypertension and nervous system becomes stronger. There have been studies done of positive people and negative people when they are up against a challenging situation. Those that are negative have a tougher time getting through the challenge and feel miserable during it. Those that are positive not only feel better, but they attract to them the solution to their issue much faster and easier.
Lion’s Breath relieves tension in the face by stretching the jaw and tongue. It can be done in almost any pose. I’ve commonly seen it during Cat/Cow poses or as I like to call it, Moving Cats flow. As another option, you may come to kneel with your seat resting in your feet. Place your hands on your knees. Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth, making a “ha” sound. As you exhale, open your mouth wide and stick your tongue as far out as possible towards your chin. Option: You can also bring your drishti (gaze) towards your third eye as you exhale. Inhale, returning to a neutral face. Repeat 3-5 times.
Breath of Joy
This is a great pose to practice if you find yourself in need of a quick pick-me-up or is great as a part of any yoga practice.
To practice Breath of Joy, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees may be slightly bent. Inhale one-third of your lung capacity and swing your arms up in front of your body, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level or a little higher, with palms facing the ceiling. Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level. Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms parallel and over your head, palms facing each other. Open your mouth and exhale completely with an audible ha, bending the knees more deeply as you sink into a standing squat and swing your arms down and back behind you like a diver. Never forcing or straining the body or breath; simply be absorbed by the peacefully stimulating rhythm. Repeat 5-10 times.
Close your eyes and feel the vibration or hum in your body. Notice the effects. Feel how quickly your heart beats; feel the sensations in your face and arms; and the tingling in the palms of your hands.
Practicing Breath of Joy awakens your whole system. It increases oxygen levels in the bloodstream, temporarily stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, circulating more prana, and gently stoking agni. Through strong inhalations and synchronized arm movements, the practice awakens your whole system—increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream, temporarily stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, circulating more prana, and gently stoking agni. A forceful exhalation lightly detoxifies the body and helps release pent-up tension.After completing several rounds, the parasympathetic system (which sustains the body at rest) kicks in, leaving the mind calm and focused. The result is a state of homeostatic balance that the yogis call sattva. These qualities make Breath of Joy especially effective in managing mood. The practice counters the shallow upper chest breathing of anxiety by inviting the breath to fill every milliliter of the lungs. Like a strong bright wind, it also sweeps away the sluggishness of depression and infuses the mind with a serene sense of clarity.
Contraindications/Modifications: If you have knee injuries or cannot stand, you may practice this in a modified way while seated in a chair. Also, this practice may not be appropriate for everyone. Skip it if you have high blood pressure or if you suffer from any kind of head or eye injury, like migraines or glaucoma. If you start to feel light-headed, instead of light-hearted, stop for a minute and just breathe normally.
There are many other various breathing techniques through yoga that you can explore. Enjoy the process!
As you take a few minutes a day to consciously breathe, you build a beautiful reserve of life force energy within. I’m finding it’s most beneficial to focus on the spaces between breaths. The space between is most sacred. A blissful stillness is here. For me it seems highly beneficial to focus on the breathing out (exhale) for bringing in beautiful energy to self and others. There is a space between that occurs on the in-breath (inhale) as well as the out-breath (exhale). This space seems quite pivotal in building the energy.
So I invite you to breathe deeply, consciously and be here now.
Maggie Anderson is a Yoga & Spiritual Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, Integrated Energy Therapy® Master Instructor, Soul Coach®, Past Life Coach, Magnified Healing® Master Teacher and Angelights Messenger. She is the author of How I Found My True Inner Peace and Divine Embrace. You can contact Maggie at SpiritualCompassConnection.com.
“Follow Your Bliss. It’s Your Spiritual Compass.”