Known in yoga as Pranayama – Prana: Life Force/ Vital Energy + Ayama: Control/ Extension – when we practice these breathing techniques we heal and develop in numerous ways. Our breathing is highly influenced by our thoughts (often shallow, short and using very little of our full lung capacity). But our thoughts (and physiology) can also be influenced and altered by our breathing. We can alter our physical and emotional states through this practice. This is when major shifts happen and we operate with a higher consciousness. Our breath will become more effective without even having to make the effort.
Pranayama also strengthens and tones the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, cleanses the lungs and respiratory system, releases toxins, purifies our blood, calms the nervous system and energizes the mind.
The 3D Breath /// 3 Dimensional Breathing
Often when teaching people how to breathe in this way (using the diaphragm) I will refer to it as three dimensional breathing. The imagery of your rib-cage breathing in 3D allows you to tap into the back body. *In yoga, the front body represents the individual and the back body is the Universal.
Envision a ribbon tied all the way around your rib cage. As you breathe in, imagine expanding into the ribbon – all the way around. Filling the back of the ribs, the back of the shoulders with breath and rising through the belly and back of the kidneys. This uses the diaphragm and abdominals taking it out of just the upper lungs and into the lower lungs – giving you deeply restorative, cleansing breaths.
This is a technique used in almost every class I teach and is a staple in my own practice. To sit and practice the art of breathing is a deeply beautiful way to connect to yourself, cleanse, heal and honour the subtleties of your life. There are many meditations one can do to build on this practice. But first we must start with the breath.
TO BEGIN: Sit or lay down comfortably. *I recommend laying down if you're just beginning a Pranayama practice. Empty all your air out.
• Start to inhale slowly through your nose bringing air into the low belly – feel it rise
• Continue inhaling feeling the breath move up into the sides of the ribs, the back of the heart – all the way to the top of the collarbones (*this is where the top of your lungs reside)
• Slowly exhale from the top of the lungs, down through the ribs and lastly the low belly – emptying all the air out
This is an advanced breathing technique and should be practiced with caution and mindfulness. It's an effective tool for awakening the senses and heightening your overall awareness. Like the name says your mind will be shining.
TO BEGIN: Sit comfortably with the spine long & the sits bones (pelvis) deeply rooted into the ground. Begin to breathe deeper. Practice a few rounds of 3 Part Breath.
• Inhale through your nose slow to prepare filling the belly 3/4 full
• Begin your first round by exhaling out the nose in short, quick controlled measures
• Your exhales should be your focus and the inhales will happen naturally
• Perform 10 forceful, quick expulsions of air drawing your navel in toward the spine each time
• Return to regular slow breathing
• Repeat 3 times
This is one of my go-to's and it never loses its powerful effects. You can make it easier or more advanced depending on the day and where your practice is at. Change up the count from 5, to 7 to 9 and keep building from there.
Begin by sitting or resting comfortably.
Follow the 3 Part Breath (above)
• Inhale slowly and with control drawing the breath all the way up the body
for a count of 5
• Hold the breath at the top for a count of 5
• Slowly release the breath and exhale for a full count of 5
• Empty all the air out of the body and begin again. Inhale for a count of 5...
• Repeat this for a minimum of 5 rounds
(increasing the count as you go *only if it feels good/ listen to the body)
This is a quick and easy breath exercise that you can use throughout the day or even at the beginning of your practice to reset. The cleansing breath involves loud releases. A sigh. As loud and heavy as you can make it. The sigh naturally sends signals to our central nervous system to calm down. Do you ever notice yourself sigh out of the blue? It's the body's natural way of calming itself down when anxiety, worry and stress are present.
To begin sit or lay comfortably OR stand tall and aligned.
• Inhale a full, deep breath through the nose rising the breath to the top of the lungs
• Exhale out of the mouth with a loud, expressive sigh
• Repeat a minimum of 3 times