Prāṇāyāma into Relaxation

Thanks for checking back! I take full responsibility for not updating you on the 2nd day ASAP. I promise this won’t become a habit. I am so excited to tell you about October 2nd’s class. It goes without saying that everyone was extremely sore and, well, we all complained about the pain! Little did I know that a few pranayama exercises was all we needed to ease the soreness. I’d like to take this opportunity to express that I am falling in love with Sanskrit words on a daily basis. It’s almost as if you can only understand the meaning of a Sanskrit word in English after you become familiar with the “story” behind the word. Prāṇāyāma is made up of two Sanskrit words: prāna and āyāma. Prāna means life force and āyāma means to restrain. In yoga, prāṇāyāma translates to breath control.

There are different types of yogic breathing techniques that have many benefits on both the body and the mind. Bhramari (AKA bumble bee) pranayama, for example, helps with anxiety, depression, anger and stress. This type of pranayama involves the use of sound vibrations. Sit in a comfortable position, cover your ears with your thumbs and place the rest of your fingers on your eyes to cover them. Inhale through your nose and as you exhale, hum.

Ujjayi breath, which I am familiar with because of my background in Ashtanga yoga, is known for helping you focus. In addition, it cures insomnia, helps lower blood pressure, rebalances and purifies internal system, and promotes a sense of peace. Additionally, ujjayi breath cures lung diseases (asthma, tuberculosis), and reduces pain and migraines. My teachers back in Montreal always urged  us to use ujjayi breath so that we can stretch, elongate and go deeper into the pose. Could it be because  ujjayi breath raises body heat? That is the connection I made.

While there are many benefits to pranayama exercises, there are instances where certain breathing techniques should not be practiced. For example, surya bhedana pranayama (right nostril breath) is not recommended for those who recently underwent heart surgery, or surgery in the abdomen and head. It also might not feel good for those who have hyper acidity. Surya bhedana pranayama is a technique in which you inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. Surya in Sanskrit means sun, which is the source of energy in yoga. Surya bhedana pranayama, therefore, is meant to energize you. Chandra bhedana pranayama (left nostril breath) is not recommended for someone who has a cold. However, it is recommended for those who have hyper acidity. Chandra in Sanskrit means moon and it cools the body. I read somewhere that both breaths should not be done on the same day. This is something to keep in mind. The image is a reference of how your hand must be formed for right and left nostril breathing. Here’s how surya bhedana pranayama works. Place your ring (4th) finger on your left nostril, gently pressing down on your nostril without deforming your nose. Don’t press too hard. Inhale through your right nostril, hold your breath for 2 seconds, then place your thumb on your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. Try it for 5 minutes and see how you feel afterwards! I’d love for you to share with me.

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