How to Practice Pranayama
Pranayama is a powerful, ancient practice of directing energy in the body. Enjoy being creative about when and where you practice Pranayama to bring more health and vitality into your life. How you practice, the actual methods, are specific and simple once you've practiced them.
DIRGHA PRANAYAMA PRACTICE
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with your spine supported.
2. Close your eyes or fix your gaze softly on a still object.
3. Inhale, expanding the belly area in three dimensions. Envision the breath going deep into the belly. As you do this, imagine that lower part of your entire torso expanding in three dimensions—the side and back body, as well as the front.
4. Keep inhaling, and imagine the torso expanding at the level of the rib cage.
5. Continue to inhale expanding the chest in front and behind to the shoulder blades.
6. Finally, as you exhale, allow the chest, rib cage, then belly to soften
Dirgha Pranayama is a deep, long inhale and slow exhale. You can repeat it several times. The inhale physically starts in the area of the Svadhistana Chakra and physically continues up to the Throat Chakra, though you can envision it going up to your Ajna Chakra. To practice chakra visualization with Dirgha, as you inhale and expand the belly, envision the breath travelling down to feed the lotus at the Root Chakra. As you continue to expand the torso on the inhale, envision the location of each chakra along the way, up to the Ajna Chakra. To keep your awareness on the calming effects of being in your physical body, do not envision the breath going up to the Crown Chakra. Keep the visualizations between the Muladhara and Ajna for embodiment.
Dirgha can help with low back pain. Sit or lie down with a rolled-up towel placed comfortably in the natural curve of your spine. If you lie down, also try placing a pillow underneath your knees. As you inhale deeply, envision breath travelling with healing energy to the place where your back hurts. Exhale, let go, relax. Repeat.
Dirgha breath is also useful during your entire asana practice. Keep the breath steady and deep, helping prana release blocks in the body and sustain your energy.
NADI SHODHANA PRACTICE
1. Find a comfortable seated position. Make sure your spine is upright, no slouching.
2. Do a few moments of Dirgha to center yourself.
3. Hold your hand in Vishnu Mudra. To do this keep your thumb, ring finger, and pinky extended, while your pointer and middle fingers are bent down toward your palm.
4. With eyes closed use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Exhale through your left nostril.
5. With your right thumb still holding your right nostril closed, inhale through the left nostril.
6. Use the ring finger of your right hand to close your left nostril.
7. Exhale through the right nostril.
8. Inhale through the right nostril. And, repeat the process from Step 4
As you practice rounds of Nadi Shodhana, begin to extend the length of the inhale and the exhale. Do this comfortably to induce relaxation and to balance the hemispheres of the brain. When you've completed the rounds you want to do, take several moments to be still and notice the effects of the practice.
1. Sit in a comfortable seated position.
2. Practice Nadi Shodhana for a few rounds.
3. To start Anuloma Viloma, retain the breath between the inhale and the exhale.
4. As you get more comfortable, hold the breath longer between the inhale and exhale, and just observe what happens in your body.
5. Repeat the cycles of Anuloma Viloma for up to fifteen minutes to receive balancing benefits of the practice. Then, after you are finished, pause and notice the effects
After doing any of the breathing exercises, pause and notice. Allow the body to adjust from the Pranayama back to normal breathing. When you do this, you also allow the effects to sink in. Keep the breathing practices meditative. Do not strain.
1. Get into a comfortable seated or standing position.
2. Practice a few rounds of Dirgha breath.
3. Inhale deeply.
4. Forcefully contract the abdomen muscles toward the spine, swiftly pushing the air out.
5. Relax the muscles, passively allowing the air to rush back into your body.
6. Repeat at a moderate pace, forcefully pressing air out, passively allowing it back in.
7. As you become experienced, you can do this in rapid succession.
8. After 15 rapid contractions of your abdomen and passive inhalations, allow a long inhale and exhale. Relax while your breath returns to normal.
9. Repeat 15 rounds three times, if you body will allow it. Increase the repetitions to 30 per round, when you are comfortable and used to Kapalabhati
Before practicing Kapalabhati and all of the breathing exercises, be sure that your nasal passages are clear. Have some tissues nearby, just in case. And, it's best not to practice Pranayama if you have a cold or upper respiratory infection.