Six Breathing Techniques
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL PRANAYAMA
One of the simplest breathing practices, and one that is very effective, as we have discussed, is Alternate Nostril pranayama.
- Sit comfortably on the floor in a cross-legged posture, keeping the spine straight. If you are not comfortable in this position, sit upright on the front edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb, and inhale through the left nostril. Inhale into the belly, not into the chest.
- After inhaling, hold your breath for just a moment.
- Exhale through your right nostril while closing the left with the ring and little finger of your right hand.
- Repeat steps I to 3, but this time start by inhaling through the right nostril (while you close the left nostril With Your ring and little finger).
You can do this breathing exercise for five to ten minutes.
NOTE: This pranayama, as well as the others In this blog, is best learned under the guidance of an accomplished teacher.
SHITALI PRANAYAMA(COOLING BREATH)
Curl your tongue into a tube. Inhale slowly through the curled tongue, swallow, and then exhale normally through the nose, the mouth closed. You will feel the incoming air cool your saliva, your tongue, and the oral mucous membranes.
This form of breathing is helpful for pacifying high pitta. It lowers the oral temperature, makes the saliva cool, helps to quench thirst, and improves digestion, absorption, and assimilation. Shitali is effective for high blood pressure, burning throat or tongue, and a burning sensation in the eyes. It cools the entire body.
If you can’t curl your tongue into a tube, an alternative way to perform shitali is with your teeth lightly clenched together and your tongue pressed up against the teeth. The air is then inhaled through the teeth.
Some people feel pain when cool air is drawn through the teeth; keeping your tongue against your teeth will provide warmth and prevent this discomfort.
BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA (BREATH OF FIRE)
This breathing exercise increases the vital capacity of the lungs, relieves allergies and asthma, and helps make the lungs strong and healthy. It also heats the body.
Inhale passively (through the nose), but exhale actively and with a little force. Start slowly and increase the speed. Imagine a steam locomotive moving slowly and picking up speed. Do one round of 30 strokes or exhalations, then rest for one minute. You can do up to five such rounds of bhastrika in the morning and five in the evening.
BHRAMARI PRANAYAMA (HUMMING BREATH)
On inhalation, constrict the epiglottis so as to create a humming sound. On exhalation, the sound is long and low. The inhalation, which is more high-pitched, is traditionally said to be like a female bee; the exhalation, which has a deeper sound, like a male bee.
If you find it difficult to make the humming sound on the inhalation, just inhale naturally, take a deep breath into the belly, and then do the humming on the exhalation. When doing bhramari, touch the tip of your tongue lightly to the edge of the soft palate near the back of the roof of your mouth. Be sure the teeth are not clenched.
Bhramari improves the melodiousness of the voice. The humming vibrates the nervous system and is a form of sound therapy for the brain. It is also good for the thyroid, thymus, and parathyroid glands. Do ten cycles.
UJJAYI PRANAYAMA (BREATH OF VICTORY)
Sit in either Vajrasana or the Lotus posture, with your hands resting on your knees, palms up. Keep your head, neck, and chest in a straight line. Lower your head into a slight chin lock by moving your head in and down, toward your chest. Bring your awareness to the throat area.
Now comes the slightly tricky part. Without actually swallowing, start the action of swallowing, to raise the trachea upward. At the same time, while constricting your epiglottis, as in silently “saying” the letter e, slowly and deeply inhale into the belly. The inhaled air will create a soft, gentle whispering sound of rushing air as it brushes the throat, trachea, heart, and diaphragm.
After inhaling, swallow and hold your breath at the belly for a moment, then slowly exhale the air by again constricting the epiglottis—as if humming, but without producing any humming sound.
Ujjayi pranayama brings great joy. It calms the mind, relaxes the intercostal muscles, and really brings a sense of victory. Ujjayi is good for all three doshas and helps to reestablish constitutional balance. It promotes longevity. Do twelve cycles (repetitions) at a time.
SURYA BHEDI PRANAYAMA (RIGHT NOSTRIL BREATHING)
Put a cotton “plug” in your left nostril so that you will breathe through the right nostril, or block the left nostril by gently pressing with the ring and little finger of the right hand. Sit comfortably. Breathe in and out through the right nostril only. Repeat ten times.