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pracchardana vidhãranãbhyãm vã prãnasya
[the mind is also calmed] by exhaling and restraining the breath.
-the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.34

Pranayamas are breathing exercises designed to cleanse the body and focus the mind. Each pranayama should be performed in a sitting pose. The eyes should remain closed, and the tip of the tongue should touch the roof of the mouth.

  • Deergha Swasam: Complete Breath

    This pranayama teaches the body how to breathe again. To achieve a complete breath, breathe slow and deep through the nose with the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Breathe first into the diaphragm; filling the stomach with air. Continue to fill the chest cavity with air; expanding the chest. Finally, lift the shoulders slightly to complete the breath, and pull the last bit of oxygen into your lungs. To exhale, relax the shoulders, chest, and diaphragm expelling all air through the nose. Pull your stomach in as far as you can.

    Each breath should ideally take one minute with a 30 second inhale and a 30 second exhale.

  • Brahmari: Humming Bee

    This pranayama teaches you how to control your breathing so your exhales come smoothly. Enter in to a meditative state of mind, and slow your breathing. Breathe with complete breaths. Begin humming quietly to yourself with each exhale. Listen to the tone and pitch of the hum. Work on smoothing the exhale so the tone and pitch do not change.

  • Kapalabhati: Skull Shining

    Performing Kapalabhati is very easy. The lungs, when opened, act as a vacuum. Therefore, you will not have to focus on breathing, merely moving your diaphragm. Using your abdominal muscles, move the diaphragm in and out while keeping your lungs open. As the diaphragm is forced in, air will be forced out of the lungs. As the diaphragm is allowed to relax, air will be drawn in to your lungs. Increase the speed of your contractions until you are rapidly breathing. Give equal force to both the exhalation and the inhalation. Kapalabhati is preliminary to practicing Bastrika.

    It is not uncommon for a student to experience the symptoms of, or indeed actual, hyperventilation. Therefore, this exercise must be approached with total mindfulness, with the student stopping prior to total hyperventilation. The goal is to saturate the lungs and bloodstream with oxygen, not to pass out.

  • Bastrika: Bellows

    Perform the same rapid breathing as in Kapalabhati, as many times as is comfortable for you, but give slightly extra force to exhalation. Inhale slowly and hold the breath. While the breath is being held, bend the neck, bringing the chin as close to the chest as possible. Hold the breath as long as is comfortable for you. Raise the head up slowly and exhale the breath evenly through the nose. Perform this sequence at least one more time, or as many times as is comfortable.

    As in Kapalabhati above, stop this Pranayama just prior to hyperventilation.

  • Anuloma Viloma: Opposite Nostril Breathing

    Anuloma Viloma aids to smoothness and slowness of breath while opening the nasal passages so air will flow equally in both. By opening the passages, you will discover how much more air you can take in. This pranayama helps prevent snoring and sinus clogging.

    To perform Anuloma Viloma, first perform Kapalabhati or Bastrika to prepare your body for mild oxygen deprivation (until the sinuses un-clog, you will have slight deprivation when breathing with one or both nostrils). Form the Vishnu mudra with your hand; folding the first and middle fingers into the palm, while keeping the thumb, ring, and pinky fingers straight. Take a complete breath through both nostrils, block one of your nostrils by pressing on it with the ring and pinky fingers and exhale through the other nostril. Inhale through this nostril, performing a complete breath. Then, while holding your breath, change over to blocking the other nostril with your thumb and exhale. Inhale a complete breath through this nostril, then change and exhale. Continue this exercise for 10 or more minutes.

    Following an exhale, breathe in deeply through both nostrils and allow your breathing pattern to return to normal.

  • Yoga Nidra

    Yoga Nidra is deep relaxation. This is performed in corpse pose where the entire body is encouraged to relax. Once the body has achieved total relaxation, a visualization may be performed. Positive affirmations are also encouraged. It is important not to tell yourself to relax, as that implies effort. Rather, you should feel yourself relax.