How to breathe, types of yoga breathing benefits, contraindications a guide on pranayama
PRANAYAMA BENEFITS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Pranayama yogic breathing is a very important part of Ashtanga, the eight parts that make up the discipline of yoga. The breath is the bridge that connects the body to the mind and soul. A regular, deep breath reflects a calm mind and a quiet soul. A short, frantic breath reflects an agitated body and an anxious mind. That's why learning to observe and understand our breath can help us manage our emotions but also mitigate some physical discomfort.
The benefits of yogic breathing are so many, let's see the main ones:
- Calms our mind
- Helps manage anxiety and panic
- Improves blood circulation
- Increases pulmonary pressure and improves lung capacity
- Increases oxygenation
- Helps to move the diaphragm correctly
- Massages the internal organs
- Helps move the lymphatic system by disposing of toxins
- Facilitates digestion
- Improves sleep
- Reduces stress
- Neutralizes lactic acid production
- Stimulates the immune system
Breathing is something we all do, but the practice of Pranayama, or breath control and awareness, is far from obvious.
Before going into the breathing techniques one must do some preparatory work on the physical, acquiring the ability to maintain a position in which to stay for several minutes while performing the breathing techniques. This is achieved through the consolidated practice of the various asanas. When we are able to sit, without fatigue, in immobility we can begin to practice mindful breathing. Pranayama brings many benefits, but it must be approached in a competent way, so we recommend the professionalism of a yoga teacher in attendance. A breathing technique performed incorrectly rather than relaxing can lead to palpitations or episodes of tachycardia.
Breathing can bring great benefits to our lives and equips us with effective techniques to resort to in times of anxiety and stress, but it must be learned in a serious way.
HOW TO BREATHE
THE THREE TIMES OF BREATHING
Yogic breathing is done in three stages: inhalation, exhalation, and holding which can be done with empty or full lungs.
INHALATION - Puraka
Inhalation is the phase in which energy is absorbed from outside, it represents the beginning of life, the desire to act, to take, to ask.
EXHALATION - Rechaka
Exhalation is instead the phase in which we release our energy, we give back to the world, we give a part of us, we let go, we end our earthly life.
TREATMENT - Kumbhaka
This word is derived from Kumbha, vase. The vessel can be full, antara kumbhaka if the holding is done after inhalation or empty vessel, bahya Kumbhaka if it is done after exhalation.
The purpose of holding the breath is to prolong the state of greater or lesser oxygenation of the blood in order to benefit from it. A good oxygenation revitalizes the organism, stimulates the lymphatic system, eliminates toxins. The lowering of oxygen, on the other hand, activates the body's defense mechanism which produces more red blood cells and strengthens the nervous system. On a psychological level, holding your breath helps create self-awareness.
THE THREE PLACES OF BREATHING
On a physical level to perform complete yogic breathing it is necessary to understand where we breathe or which part of the body we activate when we breathe. While sitting or lying down we can do a small exercise to understand how we use the lungs when we breathe. We execute a natural breath by placing one hand on the chest and one hand on the belly. The breath should be spontaneous, we are simply observing without judging or intervening. What part of the chest do we feel rising and falling as we breathe?
This breathing is shallow and high. During clavicular breathing we will feel the clavicles rising and falling and we will have the sensation of shortness of breath. This is the typical breathing of agitated and anxious people, it brings little oxygen and only to the upper part of the lungs.
This breathing is called medium breathing. By placing your hands on your ribs you will feel your rib cage rise and fall. Thoracic breathing brings a fair amount of oxygen to the lungs and is considered to be an energetic breathing that exposes the chest, giving strength and vitality.
This breathing is shallow and deep and uses the diaphragm. Abdominal breathing allows us to breathe with full lungs. In this case we will feel the belly, at the level of the abdomen and navel moving. This shallow breathing is the one used by singers and musicians to make the most of their lung capacity and fill their lungs well.
Yogic breathing also called fourth breathing or full breathing consists of combining the three places of breathing just seen. We close our eyes and visualize our torso in its entirety from the shoulders to the hips and imagine it expanding outward during inhalation. We place our hands on the sides of the torso and feel the expansion of the body throughout its length, it is an expansion that we feel starting from within us. This is the breathing that brings more oxygenation to the whole body that calms our mind that uses our breathing capacity to its maximum.
Bandhas are points of the body that are contracted during breathing to seal the energy, the prana during the exercises.
There are three bandhas (Mula bandha, Uddhyana bandha, Jalandhara bandha) plus a fourth bandha which consists in the activation of all three bandhas together called Maha Bandha.
- Mula Bandha: located in the pelvic floor which acts on Muladhara root chakra,
- Uddhyana Bandha: located in the diaphragm area, acts on third chakra Manipura, the solar plexus.
- Jalandhara Bandha: located in the throat area, acts on fifth chakra, Visuddha.
There are many breathing techniques that have different purposes and benefits, let's see some of the most used during yoga classes.
Ujjayi Pranayama VITORIOUS BREATHING
A noisy breathing in which you hold air in your throat and nose longer, exhaling air noisily, a slow breathing that calms the mind and gives more energy to the body. It is used constantly in Ashtanga vyniasa yoga to connect movement and breath.
ALTERNATE BREATHING: Nadi sodhana pranayama.
The main benefit of this technique is the anxiolytic effect. It is practiced by alternating the closing of the nostrils using the police on one nostril and the ring finger plus the millet on the other.
It aims to bring balance in the two energy channels of the sun (pingala, right nostril) and the moon (ida, left nostril) for this reason this technique is also called the breath of the sun and moon (suryachandra-pranayama).
In the version of the breath of the sun and moon, bring your right arm to the height of the forehead, resting the index and middle finger on the forehead, touching the point at the third eye, sixth ajna chakra.
Shitali COOLING BREATHING
The breathing that all teachers teach during the summer because it helps to thermoregulate body temperature. It is performed with lips half-closed with the teeth not touching and the tip of the tongue touching the upper incisors. By inhaling the air from the mouth a hissing sound is emitted, similar to the serpent's cry. Exhalation is through the nostrils.
FISH BREATHING matsya pranayama
This breathing helps to regulate pressure. One inhales through the nostrils inflating the cheeks. Exhalation is through the mouth emitting the sound "Poo".
QUADRATED BREATHING Sama Vritti Pranayama
This breathing means "same duration", it means that when we perform it the times of breathing (inhalation, holding, exhalation, holding) have the same duration. While practicing it, visualize a square by mentally going through its four sides, one for each time of breathing. This technique relaxes the mind and helps to find stability and grounding.
There are many other techniques that use the duration of breathing times to create different pranayama experiences. You can do the shortest inhale and the longest exhale, or do the inhale with one long inhale but also split it into three mini inhales, the same goes for the exhale and combine different techniques in this way.
In short, the world of pranayama is very fascinating and articulated, but we repeat, ask for a capable teacher to practice breathing in a correct and safe way.
IF YOU LIKED OUR ARTICLE
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM!