Yogic Breath (Pranayama)
What is Yogic Breathing (Pranayama)?
Yogic breathing exercises (or Pranayama in Sanskrit) are an important part of our wellness toolkit. Our breath both mirrors and affects our state of mind. It is the simplest tool, that is always available to us, for grounding and being in the present moment.
Pranyama for Relieving Anxiety and Stress
There are many breathing exercises that can be used to alleviate anxiousness and stress at any time in your day. One important principle of breathing when you feel anxious or stressed is to lengthen your exhales – breathing-out for a little bit longer than breathing-in. Inhaling deeply may not always calm you down, as deep breaths are actually linked to the sympathetic nervous system (that controls the primal flight-flight-freeze response). Exhaling, on the other hand, is link to the parasympathetic nervous system (that controls our body’s ability to relax and calm down).
A simple, yet potent breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 Breath. Here are the instructions:
- Sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes if it is safe and available to you.
- Inhale though your nose to the count t of 4.
- Hold the breath in to the count of 7.
- Exhale through your nose to the count of 8.
Repeat 3x times, then slowly open your eyes and pause. Notice how you feel: Are you feeling some quietness? Are you feeling more settled?
Pranyama in Preparation of Meditation
In the Yogic tradition of India, Pranayama is used as a pr elude to meditation, to settle the bodymind in preparation for the seated meditation session. Taking a few long, slow breaths at the beginning of your meditation and observing your bodymind is very settling and grounding. Breathing into any tension in the body can dissolve that tension, soften your body, and expand your awareness of the body as well.
Breath Observation Meditation – Vipassana
Simply observing the breath (or Vipassana in Sanskrit) is a great meditation technique. In and of itself, it can give us deep insight into the deep nature of “I AM”, of who we really are. Practicing vipassana is how the Buddha realized his true essence as being the ever-present silent witness.
The breath is always at the present moment and thus connect us with the ‘now’ and with our true essence. Echoing this principle is the following quote by the Indian sage Tirumalai Krishnamacharya:
"Inhale, and God approaches you.
Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.
Exhale, and you approach God.
Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God"
With breath awareness meditation, you are always with God.
Monsoon Maya, your certified instructor, will teach you valuable breathing techniques you can use at any time of the day when you need to ground yourself or when you feel stressed or anxious. She will also guide you in a “So Hum” breath awareness mantra meditation in the event you do not yet have your personal Primordial Sound Mantra.