- Breath awareness
- Ujjayi breath
- The wave – complete breath
- Bāhya kumbhaka
- Chandra bhedana pranayama
- Sitkari or Sitali pranayama
Settle in a comfortable seated position or sit on a chair.
Focus on the breath entering and leaving the body.
Slow down and notice the breath. Give your full attention to it as if nothing else exists; only the breath exists right now.
The Sanskrit word for Ujjayi means ‘victorious’. It is also known as the psychic breath as it leads to subtle states of mind, this is why it is often used as a tool to aid the practice of meditation.
Ujjayi is classified as a tranquilizing pranayama and it has a heating effect on the body. In yoga therapy it is used to soothe the nervous system and calm the mind. It helps relieve insomnia and it can be practiced in Shavasana (the corpse pose) before sleep. It slows the heart rate down and is good for those who suffer with high blood pressure. Ujjayi breath also alleviates fluid retention.
Ujjayi can be practiced standing, sitting or lying. Many people contort the facial muscles whilst practicing which is not necessary. Try to relax the face as much as possible. Do not contract the throat too strongly. The contraction should be slight and applied continuously throughout the practice. You can practice at any time during the day, start with 10 minutes then gradually build up to 20 minutes as you
Sit comfortably with the back straight.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Bring your awareness to the nostrils and allow the breathing to become calm and rhythmic.
You may like to equalize using the same count for the in-breath and the out-breath.
After a while transfer your attention to the throat. Imagine the air being drawn in and out through the throat and not through the nostrils, as if inhalation and exhalation are taking place through a small hole in the throat.
As the breath becomes slower and deeper, gently contract the glottis so that a soft snoring is produced in the throat. When done correctly there is a simultaneous contraction in the abdomen, this is achieved naturally without any effort being made. Both the in-breath and the out-breath should be long, deep and controlled.
Practice the complete breath while listening to the sound made in the throat.
The sound made is not very loud. It should only be audible to the individual and not to anyone else, unless they are very close by.
UJJAYI – This practice can go from 15 minutes to 45 minutes and at the end of that time you will be relaxed and firmly in your body, grounded! Breathe in for a count of four, and then out for a count of four and focus on each of the seven chakras, the energy centres in the body.
Contra-indications: people who are introverted by nature will do better with an energizing pranayama such as the breath of fire, as Ujjayi will take you further into introspection.
THE WAVE (COMPLETE) BREATH
This one encourages breath awareness and is always performed with the back and head held erect in an upright-seated position (this gives a greater vital capacity than when lying down).
Inhale filling the lungs to a point of fullness and try to do this without straining or feeling discomfort. When the lungs are comfortably full, stop the inhalation, and hold for a count of two or three.
Now exhale with one controlled smooth movement, allowing the air to stream out of the nostrils in a steady continuous way.
Think of the lungs as having three parts. A lower, middle, and upper space.
Visualize filling the lower lungs with air first, then the middle, and finally the upper lungs.
Notice the thoracic cage as it expands. The diaphragm lowers causing the abdomen to swell out. Then finally, the air fills the upper lungs and broadens the chest.
Although the exercise is visualized as having three stages, there should be just one continuous smooth movement.
This breathing technique fills and empties the lungs very efficiently, richly oxygenating on inhalation and removing waste gases during exhalation.
Do four or five complete rounds of in-breaths and out-breaths per minute. Repeat another round including pauses, between inhalation and exhalation, lasting about two or three seconds.
Out-breath retention refers to the time after exhalation and before inhalation. It is the time when the lungs have little or no air. In advanced stages the lungs are fully emptied but in the earlier stages it is much more fruitful to allow a little air to remain in the lungs. During Bāhya kumbhaka apply bandhas (energy valves) such as Jalandhara bhanda (chin valve) where the head is lowered. Jalandhara is applied with Uddīyana Bandha (abdominal retraction).
“There is a deep change in the mind waves when the lungs are completely empty. It is a time of deep detachment.”
CHANDRA BHEDANA PRANAYAMA
The word chandra means ‘moon’ and bheda means ‘to pierce’ or ‘to pass through’. In this practice breath passes through the left nostril. The energy passes through ida (chandra) nadi, which represents the lunar energy on the inhalation and through pingala (surya) nadi on the exhalation. These are larger nadis that hold the balance of magnetism and energy created by the sun and moon. They travel from the base of the spine to the eyebrow centre. Through this practice, ida nadi (mental energy) is stimulated and the organs in the upper body become calm and relaxed.
Find a comfortable position and gently exhale all of the air from the lungs. Breathe in though the left nostril and out through the right. Allow the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation. Once you have established a rhythm move on to the next stage.
Breathe in though the left nostril.
Hold after inhalation. The first few times hold for a few seconds. Gradually increase the duration of the retention time after inhalation. (Inner retention is called Antara Kumbhaka).
Exhale out through the right nostril. Allow the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation.
Breathe in through the left nostril.
Exhale out through the right nostril.
Hold after exhalation for a few seconds. Gradually increase this time reflecting upon how the breath and nervous system respond. (Outer retention is called Bahya Kumbhaka).
Benefits, Chandra Bhedana promotes introversion. Improves control over hunger and thirst. Reduces body heat. Reduces high blood pressure. Calms the mind. Induces muscular relaxation and promotes mental tranquillity.
Contra-indications: Low blood pressure. Depression. Coughs, colds. Asthma. Bronchitis. Constipation.
SITKARI (TEETH HISSING) OR SITALI (CURL THE TONGUE)
This is done by opening lips, keeping the upper and lower teeth touching each other, and then inhaling through mouth with hissing sound, then performing kumbhaka (Breath Retention) with bandhas (energy valves that direct energy flow) and then exhaling with nostrils. The air passing via tongue cools the blood, lowering its temperature. This type of Pranayama removes excess heat in the body, also diseases like acidity and hypertension.
This Pranayama harmonizes the secretions of reproductive organs and all the endocrine system. It also improves digestion, lowers high blood pressure and purifies the blood.
Sit in a cross-legged position with the back upright, curl the tongue, folding the sides into the centre and protrude it slightly past the lips with the middle section of your tongue touching the top lip. Now suck in the air with an audible sh…sh…sh.. sound, like you are sucking air in through a straw. Then retain the breath as long as possible. In due course exhale the breath through both the nostrils.
Benefits of sitkari/sitali pranayama: This practice is invigorating and eases hunger, thirst, sluggishness and sleep. It prevents bile from increasing. Hardness of the tonsils is also remedied by it. With regular practice of Sitkari both mental and physical powers increase.